The Bossy Bookworm
Review of Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter
I wished that the book had more fully explored the cycle of prediction and realization that lies at the heart of its premise.
In the world of Laura Maylene Walter's just-published young adult novel Body of Stars, the patterns of freckles, moles, and birthmarks on women’s bodies serve to predict their future—their career, the number of children they'll have, important aspects of their family members' lives--everything significant that lies ahead.
I had some trouble getting on board with Walter's premise of moles and freckles and birthmarks holding the key to unlocking the future. The characters' peering at and studying each other’s body patterns felt extremely invasive and intrusive, especially when the boys and men felt entitled to examine the young women. (The father-daughter examination tradition at puberty--! And Miles's pushing into his sister's room--which is disturbing enough: privacy, please!--and expecting disrobing and peering to be allowed--! No no no.) The girls seemed mildly disturbed but not as horrified as I was as a reader. I felt on the edge of jumping out of my skin for most of the book.
It seemed especially off-putting somehow that Miles (who as a male had no markings) was so very interested in the markings and their meanings.
There are a lot of potential triggers here, and Walter explores a society in which victim shaming is common and justice isn't meted out to those in the wrong. It's enraging.
The most intriguing aspects of the story for me were related to characters' dreams of a world in which women had no markings, but I wished that the book more fully explored the cycle of prediction and realization that lies at the heart of its premise. Do predicted events bear out specific outcomes just by their existence? How much of the fated events are set in stone in Walter's imagined world? If no markings existed, would futures not be fated? Or would they be destined to occur, but remain unknown until they took place? And isn't centering so many lives around interpreting these marks perpetuating their power--and the women’s being at men's mercy, being showcased and examined and on display and exploited?
The education for (some of) the girls following their abductions was wonderfully imagined. I would've liked to spend more time at the school as they learned about themselves and the world around them. But I kept asking myself, what is any of it for if characters cannot change any aspect of their life path?
I received a prepublication edition of this book through Penguin Group Dutton and NetGalley.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Body of Stars reminded me in some ways of The Power because of the young women's influence over society, but women ultimately seemed more empowered in that book.