Stargazing for Beginners is the brand new novel from Jenny McLachlan, author of the hugely successful Ladybirds Series. Publishing by Bloomsbury on 6th April, I’m delighted to have reviewed it for our spring feature and it will be followed by an interview with the author!
Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan
I point up at the sky. The moon has just started to appear, a pale orange disc sitting low in the sky. ‘That’s the moon,’ I say to Elsa. ‘Moon.’
When Meg looks at the stars, she sees adventure. She sees escape. She sees her future. Because Meg’s big ambition is to become an astronaut. But her hopes are thrown into chaos when her mum disappears to follow up yet another of her Very Important Causes….and leaves Meg and her baby sister behind.
Can Meg take care of Elsa and still follow her own path? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions. But then nobody ever got anywhere by dreaming small….
Meg is a super intelligent fifteen year old with big dreams. A bit of a science geek, she focuses on getting her grades – which comes much more naturally to her than trying to make friends. When the opportunity of a lifetime comes up – to win a trip to NASA in Houston – Meg knows this is her chance to help make her dreams a reality. However, in order to do so she must overcome her fear of public speaking to participate in the competition. This is easier said than done, especially when her home life is so complicated.
When her free-spirited and eccentric mother disappears on a charity mission to Thailand, Meg is left to care for her younger sister and the dog, Pongo, with the help of her equally eccentric Grandad. Meg has to juggle being ‘Mum’, with being her usual studious self. Meg’s time-keeping goes out of the window, as does her homework and all thoughts of being able to practice her speech. And when people start to question where Meg’s Mum is, it takes all her brain power to figure out how to get through the next few weeks. From putting together her presentation to looking after a demanding toddler, cooking and getting her homework done on time, Meg slowly starts to realise she’s not as independent as she thought. Perhaps the people around her can help in ways she never realised. Ed, her fellow competitor; Annie, Jackson and Rose, the other members of the Biscuit Club and even her mad Grandad and baby sister, all help her see the world, and indeed space, in a different light.
Stargazing for Beginners is an entirely lovely read and a really perceptive story with just the right amount of humour, interest, romance and plot twists. Meg is a hugely likeable and believable character, facing her dilemmas with bravery. The narrative is totally engaging and you find yourself rooting for Meg in all the various situations she finds herself in. Many of these situations readers will readily relate to – difficulties making friends at schools; step-families; first-love. I loved the characters in the Biscuit Club- especially Annie, who with a significant disability, takes no prisoners and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks. Ed makes a very good hero and his kindness towards Meg is just plain old fashioned romantic! Meg’s relationship with her baby sister Elsa is so well-observed; from the nightmare of looking after a toddler having tantrums to the change in Meg’s feelings towards Elsa the more time Meg spends with her. Meg’s eccentric Grandad and Mum are brilliantly described and you feel for Meg having to be the ‘sensible’ one. Equally, I loved that it’s Meg’s chaotic Grandad who helps her see how to use her strengths to solve her problems.
We all make assumptions about each other in so many ways; Stargazing for Beginners demonstrates this beautifully in a truly uplifting way. We’re not as alone in the Universe as we sometimes might feel and as this story shows you don’t have to search the far reaches of space to find what you’re looking for! A perfect springtime read for readers aged 11+.
With thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this book to review. Author interview coming up!