Rating: 4 1/2 stars
“Connect the Stars” is a wonderful middle grade book by the husband and wife team of Marisa de los Santos and David Teague. It’s about two middle school students who are each misfits in their own way. Audrey has an ability to tell when someone is lying — almost a supernatural ability to know truth from prevarication. Aaron has almost an eidetic ability to remember anything he has ever read or heard.
But both of their super abilities lead them to feel different from those around them. Audrey catches her best friends lying to her. She thinks that lying is the worst thing one can do to a friend, so she cuts off the friendships. That leaves her with no friends. Aaron is brilliant at facts, figures and dates, but if asked about a feeing — he is lost.
Both Audrey and Aaron get sent to wilderness survival camp for six weeks of intensive hiking through the desert. Their survival leader is crazy, one of their fellow hikers is a huge bully, and the stereotypical mean girl is right there with them. The story is told in alternative first person narrative by Audrey and Aaron, a technique that works well to help the reader understand what each of them is thinking.
It’s middle grade fiction, so Audrey and Aaron always do the right thing even when it means that they might lose some competitions. But when lives are at stake, Audrey and Aaron come through with more intelligence, compassion and integrity than expected. They also learn about how their strengths (knowing if someone is lying and memorization of data) can also be a source of weakness. Their strengths do come in very handy during the ordeal, but they also learn a lot about themselves.
This is a great choice for the fifth through eighth grade classrooms. It would also be a wonderful choice for a read aloud.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by HarperCollins for review purposes.