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The Star That Always Stays af Anna Rose…

The Star That Always Stays (udgave 2022)

af Anna Rose Johnson (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
646405,830 (4.44)2
When fourteen-year-old Norvia moves from Beaver Island to Boyne City in 1914, she has to contend with a new school, a first crush, and a blended family, but she also must keep secret her parents' divorce and her Ojibwe heritage. Includes author's note.
Titel:The Star That Always Stays
Forfattere:Anna Rose Johnson (Forfatter)
Info:Holiday House Inc (2022), 224 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

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The Star That Always Stays af Anna Rose Johnson


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Fourteen-year-old Norvia Ann Nelson dreams of becoming a heroine who attends high school with popular friends and has many suitors. But that’s difficult to do when her father doesn’t seem to value education and then leaves the family altogether. Her now-divorced mother is scraping to get by, and Norvia’s older two brothers are already working so she finds it unlikely that her dreams will ever come true. But then her mother unexpectedly announces that she will soon be remarrying – to a man none of the Nelson children have met and they don’t know what he’ll be like. As the children are whisked away to an unfamiliar home across town and introduced to their new stepfamily, Norvia continues to wonder if she’ll ever live like a heroine in the stories she reads …

This book was so tediously long, despite being just about 300 pages. Norvia is the dullest of protagonists, who basically cries no matter what – actual disappointments, not getting her way (because she didn’t voice it), being shy and scared, or even when being happy! I was so sick of hearing about her tears by the end of the book. Because her father disapproved of them, Norvia doesn’t read novels until her stepfather introduces them to her and then she becomes obsessed with this idea of being a “heroine,” but she hasn’t the faintest idea what that actually means. She continues to be insipid and barely says a word to anyone at home or at school when she does get the chance to go.

She’s frankly unkind and unfeeling as she ignores genuine friends while chasing after popular girls and strings along a boy her age who’s interested in her in the hopes of catching the eye of a more handsome one. For the former, she does two-thirds or so of the way into the book realize the error of her ways, casting aside the shallow, fake friends and deepening her friendship with the true one – but she does so with the most lackluster apology or real understanding of the hurt she’s done. It’s all about her instead. I get this is not that off course for a 14-year-old girl who is still developing emotional intelligence, but it really made it hard to like her as nothing about her character was that thrilling.

In terms of the boys, she never really sees the issue. Here’s a stellar gem from this book:
“What if she did ask Aylmer to the dance? He was no Louis Behren, of course – but she liked him well enough, and Aylmer liked her too, even if it was only because he didn’t know about the divorce. Perhaps Aylmer could provide the happy ending to her storybook dance. In any case, she had to try it – she had no other alternative.”
This after being told that Aylmer “adores” her – she thinks it’s a great idea to ask him to a dance even though she actually likes someone else instead. Granted, Aylmer was kind of annoying too – he was definitely built in that ‘he must like you so that’s why he teases you’ antiquated mold – but this is not good behavior to be encouraging. Also, just for the record, at the end of the book, Norvia is still vacillating between liking the two of them – Louis because she’s actually attracted to him versus Aylmer because he likes her and it doesn’t seem that Louis does. Again, I get it – one thing mentioned in the book was that a young girl shouldn’t decide too soon to get attached to one boy for the rest of her life, but she doesn’t have to be engaged at the end of the book; she could just be firmly telling Aylmer she only wants to be his friend and/or that she’s interested in someone else so he’s not continually strung along waiting for her to like him back.

As referenced in the quote above, the divorce is a BIG deal in this book. As it’s set primarily in 1914, this makes sense. This small-ish Michigan town cannot deal with the idea of a divorced woman, let alone a divorced woman remarrying, so it’s a subject of gossip and a lot of upset to Norvia as a result of girls at her school shunning her. It’s in fact a much bigger deal than the book jacket would lead you to believe, as that focuses instead on the family hiding their indigenous Ojibwe roots on their mother’s side (and at their mother’s request). Their background doesn’t really seem to be much of an issue when it is raised. The same shallow people who didn’t like the divorce/remarriage situation don’t like it too much, but they already don’t get along with the family. I do appreciate that the story does have this diversity in it – both in ethnic heritage and family makeup – but it just wasn’t a good book.

Can I mention again how dull this book was? And how dull Norvia is? She is quiet and reserved ALL the time, even around her family. A big ‘breakthrough’ moment more than two-thirds of the way into the book is when Norvia has a conversation with her mother: “There. She had told the truth and the story in its entirety, and she had been a bold heroine in doing so.” The story in question is that she had a handkerchief from a classmate, forgot to return it to him, and wanted to do so now. It was so benign. To claim she was being “bold” is preposterous. Because she’s still holding back from her mother that she also likes the boy in question. And, again, this is her literal biological mother who is shown as nothing but supportive throughout the book.

Eventually, Norvia finds her own voice a little more – and I should really stress a little – with the help of her stepfather and to a lesser extent, her stepbrother. These two basically just quote Bible verses at her and tell her to trust Jesus, and that magically fixes everything. This, despite the fact that the Nelson family had to change religions (from Catholicism to Presbyterian, but still) after the mother’s remarriage and that former friends from both churches shun the family because of the divorce/remarriage situation. But, sure, quote a Bible verse and everything is magically fixed.

Worse yet, Norvia starts doing that toxic positivity thing of just pretending to be happy: “She plastered a smile on her face and immediately felt just a bit happier.” and “But the strangest thing of all was the fact that acting upbeat had made her feel upbeat – even before Louis arrived.” As much as I was sick of Norvia just crying over everything constantly, this is not really an improvement. She’s a teen-aged girl having a lot of complicated feelings from grief over her dead grandfather, abusive language from her father, her mother’s quick decision to upturn the family’s entire life, the cruel judgment of neighbors and classmates, and so on – before all the normal stuff of being a teen and trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. She needs to feel her emotions and learn how to regulate them, not hide them away behind a fake smile.

The way the story was presented also seemed disjointed to me. It starts a few years before the main action, showing how there’s already tension between Norvia’s parents. It also highlights the close-knitness of the family overall, especially with their grandparents. This is okay, although a little jumpy when it moves to the ‘present’ of the book and then suddenly explains how the parents are now divorced and the grandfather is deceased. However, then most of the main chapters are followed by shorter stories from earlier in Norvia’s childhood, primarily with her grandfather. These interstitials are often then referenced later in the following chapter, but honestly only a line or two of the preceding pages are relevant. It made the book feel clunky, instead of allowing Norvia to just have a flashback in the moment.

I really don’t know what this book was trying to accomplish but for me, it just led to boredom. I could see how it in theory could appeal to readers of classics like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, especially with that similar issue of being about teens but technically geared towards a younger audience, but I read those books as a child (and re-read the former as an adult just recently), and this book is not that. The protagonist (who is most certainly not a heroine) is just too flat and dull and insipid to make the book appealing. Some of her siblings (notably Dicta) are interesting, and I felt more could have been built out of the begrudgingly forced siblingship with Vernon. It seemed like maybe the book was trying to follow too many threads and it just wasn’t coming together. Although, somehow it felt like nothing ever happened and the ending is so meh.

According to the author’s note, Norvia was not only a real person but an ancestor of the author. It sounds as though the author did a ton of research on Norvia and her times. And yet, there’s no follow-up about what finally happened. Did Norvia achieve her goals of becoming a bookkeeper? Of getting married and having children? What became of her other family members? Who knows, because there’s no real conclusion to this book, and none of the family members are famous enough to find this information on one’s own without serious effort. And I already expended all my effort finishing this book despite not liking it fairly early on – which was unfortunate because I was really hoping to enjoy it. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jan 27, 2024 |
This debut book is five stars due to the sheer beauty contained within the pages. Our young woman, our Ojibwe heroine Norvia loved books and heroines like Anne Shirley and Jo March. Reading the likes of Bronte and Austen and Alcott. However. I bring this up because it is important to acknowledge that to me, Norvia (and indeed this entire book) reads like a comforting classic. One I can recommend without pause.

Truly, writing style and theme felt like Anne of Green Gables. From calling her new home "North Star" to desiring a special friend, The Star that Always Shines is a sweet read. The unashamed references to Christianity and to Bible/one's faith was very unexpected and yet a delightful one. The way in which Norvia's Ojibwe heritage was intertwined (yet also dealt with underlying racism and colorism) was something I appreciated...let's normalize characters who are different than ourselves.

While some might struggle with a subplot of Norvia's interest in an older boy, I think it adds to the story. Because it's used as an opportunity to draw her closer to her stepfather. Which just makes sense for this book. Community and family were the underlying concepts. Indeed the scenes of family plays (similar to Little Women) made me smile

Truly this book is a delight and it has a place to belong in my heart. And probably on my shelf. ( )
  msgabbythelibrarian | Jun 11, 2023 |
Anna Rose Johnson's debut takes readers to Michigan in the early 1900s to explore themes of family, belonging, and the quest for security and happiness alongside young Norvia, the main character of the story, who has to navigate a new school, new family after her parents divorce and her mother remarries, and new sources of comfort and discomfort as she tries to take control of her life. That constant quest for security and happiness is partially what keeps readers turning pages, as the author raises question after story question that the reader must have answers to.

The characters are another part of what makes this story as engaging as it is. Dicta, for instance, the youngest of the children, had a unique sort of personality as well as a physical disability, spoke her mind on all subjects, and was vain and not at all tenderhearted. There's a sort of innocence about her in spite of her curious and disregarding manner, and the way she carried out her ideas with her youthful confidence and enthusiasm brought a certain light to the story.

Elton was the second-oldest after Herman, the brother who left the family to be employed elsewhere, and his time was spent in the fields doing work that he loved and being the steady remaining older brother to his siblings.

Casper's role wasn't as front and center, but he learned valuable things about choice in education, training, and hard work.

And Norvia is the one of whom Dicta remarks in the second half of the book that she is "never happy." I didn't realize that until she pointed it out, after which it became glaringly obvious. She found solace in books and in trying to make things the way they were in some ways, but she wasn't really happy, and she couldn't truly be happy for others either. Part of that has to do with her journey in the book, as she wanted a better life with the ability to make her own choices. Her goals and outlook change as she does, and it was such an intriguing journey.

Of the school friends, Kitty seemed one-dimensional at times, with her unfailing loyalty to the protagonist and the way she was made out to be a flighty, clumsy scatterbrain of a sidekick. I wish we could have seen more of her value outside of her usefulness to the main character. She seemed like such a sweet and kind person, and Norvia's ideas of what Kitty ought to be would certainly not be kind to her if they were carried out.

Altogether, The Star That Always Stays is a children's book geared perhaps towards older children, with its content of messy family relationships, childbirth, and sorrow/helplessness. There's a certain thread of hope that ties the story together, perhaps most evidently at the end, and it creates an experience that is hard to forget. I've enjoyed my time with these characters, and I look forward to reading more by Anna Rose Johnson.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the publisher for review purposes. A positive review was not required.

Content: joking about ghosts and a crazy wife locked in a room, fear in reference to that conversation, fairies and witches mentioned, a character stares into his teacup "as if reading his future in the [tea] leaves"
  Marypo | Jul 18, 2022 |
I absolutely adored this book!! I read this book in a few sittings (unfortunately I never had enough time all at once otherwise I think I would’ve devoured it in one sitting).

I love all the ways that Norvia grew throughout this book and all the obstacles in this book. Even though the book is over I’m still speculating how Norvia’s future would’ve looked and I honestly wouldn’t say no to a sequel or an epilogue!

The characters are all so unique, but I feel like I’m part of the family. I love how each character interacts with Norvia, but I also love getting to see how characters interact with each other besides Norvia.

The many obstacles that Norvia faces makes me wish I had this book when I was younger as I really wish I could’ve learned some of these lessons from this book instead of the hard way. Still, the beautiful thing about reading it now is seeing how someone else might’ve taken similar challenges.

This is a book I plan on coming back to (I think this will be a book that will become a seasonal read for around Christmas as it just captures the feelings I tend to have around that time) year after year and simply enjoying a tale that captures all spectrum of feelings and reminds me of the importance of grace.

Note: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own. ( )
  RebeccaWashburn | Jul 16, 2022 |
Norvia Nelson desperately wants to be the heroine of her own stories, just like the adventurous and popular girls she reads about in the books she loves. However, life is about to change drastically for Norvia when her parents divorce and Norvia moves from the quaint Beaver Island to the city with her new step family. Divorced women are ostracized in 1914, but that's not all Norvia has to deal with. Her mother tells her not to let people know that she is Ojibwe, even though Norvia is proud of her heritage and loves the Ojibwe stories that her grandfather shared with her. Norvia is excited to start high school and her new stepfather, Mr. Ward, encourages Norvia to attend. Some of the girls that Norvia was friends with before, now shun her for her mother's divorce. Norvia makes the decision to be a peacemaker, like in her favorite story and bring people together.
The Star that Always Stays is a middle grade historical fiction coming of age story written from Norvia's unique perspective of an Ojibwe and French teen. The author drew on the stories and history of her own family for the book, I could tell there was a strong connection to the characters through the writing. Norvia's spirit leapt off the page. I could feel her internal struggles with wanting to honor her heritage and her mother telling her not to let people know. I loved Norvia's love of books and how she wanted to emulate the heroines, but needed to find her own way of going about it. The Ojibwe stories that were incorporated through flashbacks were amazing, I wish there were more. These stories helped Norvia to realize who she was and steered her in the right direction for the difficult decisions she had to make with her family and school. I liked that Norvia's step family was supportive and encouraging rather than the evil step family trope. She forged true relationships with Mr. Ward and her stepbrother Vernon and redefined her family. Norvia's sister Dicta was easily the most amusing character with her outspoken and honest remarks. The Mary's were also wonderful characters that I would have loved to learn more about. The ending is a perfect fit for Norvia and the pictures of the author's real family are a great addition.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. ( )
  Mishker | Jul 12, 2022 |
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When fourteen-year-old Norvia moves from Beaver Island to Boyne City in 1914, she has to contend with a new school, a first crush, and a blended family, but she also must keep secret her parents' divorce and her Ojibwe heritage. Includes author's note.

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