When Zoe approaches Sam about using one of her paintings in an upcoming play, Sam is freaked out to be speaking to someone on Zoe's level at the school. Eventually, the girls develop a friendship and bond over the home lives and family challenges that they're both trying to hide from everyone else. The two girls build a special world through text messages that they both visit when real life becomes too much, and Starworld is both a refuge and a secret that they share.
Although the girls' families provide plenty of tension and drama, the plot is made even more intense as Sam struggles with her romantic feelings for Zoe--and Zoe is completely oblivious.
STARWORLD by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner is told in alternating voices, and the book does a great job of balancing drama and humor. I raced through the pages, and I was rooting for both girls to find safety and happiness. The characters of Zoe and Sam are both developed well, though Sam has a bit more depth--it's possible that's because she has to stand on her own so much while Zoe has more of a supporting cast with other friendships and a larger family. I enjoyed the story itself, and although I ended up skimming the sections where the girls' texts took them deep into Starworld, those forays didn't detract too much from the real relationships surrounding them.
All in all, STARWORLD is a completely charming book, and I loved being a fly on the wall through Sam and Zoe's story. My thanks to YA Books Central and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.