STARGAZING is a heartfelt and beautifully told story of friendship, individuality, independence, and learning from differences. We are introduced to Christine, the main character, at a musical performance where she shows both insecurity in being seen as “not as talented” and different as well as a willingness to go (slightly) against the norm despite parental criticism. This sets up the relationship between Christine and Moon, a girl who is all confidence and impulse and…difference. The two become fast friends, and when conflicts arise, great lessons are learned.
Christine lives in a Chinese-American community where everyone seems to have similar values and likes and aspirations. Her parents are traditional and strict, but loving. When they invite Moon and her mother, who are going through difficult financial times, to live in a small apartment on their property, Christine learns that not every Chinese-American family has the same traditions and values. Moon and her mother are Buddhists and vegetarians, and Moon loves K-pop, doesn’t speak Chinese, talks about friendly celestial beings, and is allowed to paint her nails. Christine’s enchantment with Moon even allows her to overlook Moon’s violent response to another child’s mean behavior. With Moon’s encouragement, Christine tries out new foods, music, and styles.
When Christine’s grades slip, and she decides to focus on studying, Moon becomes close with another classmate, and invites her new friend to join a dance performance for the talent show that Christine and Moon had been planning. The building disappointment and resentment on Christine’s part is portrayed realistically and with compassion. And a sudden medical crisis, including its after-effects, is presented with such emotional clarity and honest questions that it is at once heartbreaking and rewarding.
STARGAZING leads readers through the evolution of a new friendship with moments that display great tenderness, empathy, and understanding even as discomfort, jealousy and regret appear. Jen Wang’s engaging and delightful artwork, which often stands without dialogue, conveys emotions all on its own, allowing the characters a depth influenced by readers’ own experiences.