This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by HeatherMac. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book, YA Romance category.
Fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Jenny Han will fall in love with this heartfelt and humor-laced debut following one zodiac-obsessed teen as she struggles to find the guy of her cosmic dreams.
As the daughter of an expert astrologer, Wilamena Carlisle knows that truth lies within the stars. So when she discovers a planetary alignment that won’t repeat for a decade, she’s forced to tackle her greatest astrological fear: The Fifth House—relationships and love. But Wil must decide whether to trust her heart or her chart when she falls for a sensitive guitar player whose zodiac sign points to cosmic disaster.
If Wil’s fate is truly written in the stars, then this summer is about to go supernova. . . .
Here is HeatherMac’s review:
An astrology romance, how novel!
Summer of Supernovas is a YA romance about astrology-obsessed Wilamena Carlisle trying to abide by what seems written in her stars. The book begins on top of the dilapidated town water tower with nerdy retro chic 17-year-old Wil (or Mena, depending) seeking perspective on her impending search for love. She is determined to follow the star chart that feels like her only lingering connection to her dead mother.
By some freak of planetary alignment, her chart says she only has a window of 22 days to meet the love of her life before the next auspicious opportunity comes along in TEN years (when she will be a wizened crone of 27).
This background exposition feels rushed, overtly demanding you suspend your disbelief at why a teenager would continue to kind of a dick about dating the bland brother of the guy with whom she has better connection and chemistry. As the only origin of the book’s conflict, it feels a bit forced. We are often stupid as teenagers, though, so whatever; they aren’t werewolves, or anything (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), so disbelief suspended, at least on this count.
Back on top of the water tower, she is listening to headphones, and pacing and making plans and lists about finding love when someone driving by takes her for a jumper. Here we meet Grant Walker, deep, dreamy, and 18, facing his fear of heights, trying to save someone that doesn’t need saving. Things don’t go well in the “rescuing,” (think laundry day underwear with a dress and a rusty ladder rung giving way) and Mena ends up in the hospital waking up to a worried grandma, a bump on the head, and business card admitting her to a popular nightclub with an apology note from Grant. Meet cute.
Mena is pinup girl curvy with a collection of 40s dresses, cat-eye glasses, and a self-described nerdy cuteness. I do love a heroine that breaks out of the wan, waif mold, and she is sweet and awkward, though maddeningly distracted by what she is interpreting as her mother’s wish for her. Her grandma, who is raising her, didn’t approve of her daughter’s obsession with astrology. Mena’s best friend, Irina, a Russian body piercer (so fierce, I want her to have a book of her own), knows about her friend’s small search window and has Mena’s perfect star sign match calculated as a gift.
They decide to go to Absinthe, the night club on the business card, on the hunt for an eligible Sagittarius (November 21- December 21st). She starts out asking people their birthday or star sign, and she draws the attention of handsomely familiar Seth Walker (Grant’s brother) who is charmed by her retro looks and her mission, and is VERY conveniently a Sagittarius. He is the more classically handsome, entitled younger brother, and she doesn’t realize their connection at first. Seth disappears for a while so she can run into Grant again, the guitar player for a popular band at said popular night club, which is owned by his family. But he is angsty about it, hasn’t had his teeth corrected, drives a used car, and has duct tape on his chucks, so we are to know he’s not an entitled jerk.
They have oodles of chemistry, hot dancing, earnest conversation but when she asks if he knows anything about astrology, he says it snows every year on his birthday, but maybe that is meteorology. Her heart sinks when she interprets that to mean that he is the dreaded Pisces (February 18-March 20).
HOLD UP. Whaat?! Birthday snow means February or March? Not November, December, or January? For someone so intent on finding a boy with the correct astrological sign, she sure is slapdash about getting birthdates and making assumptions. Especially because she likes Grant so well. Why wouldn’t she ask? Sigh.
Now we have the set up – Seth is the perfect match of her star chart, and Grant is the match of her heart. She dates Seth, befriends Grant, and shenanigans ensue. Both Irina and Grandma (who is a baker baking delicious things that I want to eat ALL of) prefer Grant. Mena vows to focus on Seth, but is repeatedly drawn to Grant. Rinse and repeat. Ad nauseam. Once she has decided that she is with Seth, she seems like a jerk for stringing Grant along even though she must not (dramatic back of hand to brow) be with him. Woe betide the star-crossed lovers. I do not like this about her, but man, our mothers sure can give us some complexes, can’t they?
As a rational engineer type, I usually give astrology a huge shifty side eye. I felt like giving Gram a solidarity sister exploding fist bump on her “Cosmological hooey” assessment of astrology. BUT, I must say that since I was doing this review, I pulled my birth chart and I would say it is was surprisingly comparable to Myers-Briggs or many of the other personality analyzers that are so trendy in corporate America right now. Who knew? It makes me giggle a little to think of trying to convince the HR people that astrology should be the next big organizational psychology movement. The accuracy of astrology notwithstanding, the background information and stories Mena shares about the zodiac and the constellations are interesting, and clearly homework has been done. The friendship between Irina and Wil is charming, the cupcakes are mouthwatering, the prose light and engaging, and it was unlike anything else I have read.
If I had not been reviewing this book, I wouldn’t have given it a second read, but also, I might have been slightly less annoyed at the forced conflict. This was a light read that probably shouldn’t have to bear too much scrutiny. It was like cotton candy: fluffy and sweet, but also a little messy and sticky, and a worthy addition to your summer reading pile.
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Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods
May 10, 2016
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