With their lookalike covers and sound-a-like titles, it could be difficult for a reader to tell Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson and Second Star by Alyssa Sheinmel apart. They aren't the same book. One is a nicely realistic odd couple romance between a small town girl and a celebrity, the other a well-crafted retelling of Peter Pan. I enjoyed them both!
by Alyssa Sheinmel
To be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
on May 13, 2014
Source: thanks to Macmillan/FSG for advance review copy!
Synopsis from Goodreads: A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete.My take: You wouldn't think this would be my kind of book. Peter Pan is not one of my favorite classics and magical realism really isn't my thing. But I'm a huge fan of Alyssa Sheinmel's work -- I've read all her books -- and I love the way that she incorporates magic and fairy tale elements into all her stories.
Second Star is the story of Wendy Darling, a California teenager who just finished high school and is headed to Stanford. You'd think Wendy's life is perfect, but it's not. Her happiness is shadowed by the mysterious disappearance of her twin brothers while surfing. Wendy sets out to find them, and is soon wrapped up in the lifestyle of a mysterious group of surfers led by the charming but inscrutable Pete. Wendy's certain that he can help her find her brothers. Her quest leads her to the Jolly Roger, a dive bar, and Jas, who deals an addictive drug called fairy dust. Wendy's not giving up until she gets answers about her brothers, even if her quest destroys her.
Okay, you might think that all sounds kind of out-there, but this retelling really worked for me. The whole book feels ... dreamy and otherworldly, and to me, those are qualities that really honor the spirit of original story and its portrayal of Neverland. Alyssa Sheinmel excels at writing fragile-yet-strong heroines who seem to have everything but are barely holding it all together. To me, the whole story felt like a classic fairy tale -- not the Disney-fied version, but those original fairy stories that showed peeks of the dark side underneath all the glitter.
by Kim Culbertson
To be published by Scholastic
on April 29, 2014
Source: Thanks to Scholastic for allowing me to read an e-ARC from Netgalley
Synopsis from Goodreads: Nothing ever happens in Little, CA. Which is just the way Carter Moon likes it. But when Hollywood arrives to film a movie starring former child star turned PR mess Adam Jakes, everything changes. Carter's town becomes a giant glittery set and, much to her annoyance, everyone is starry-eyed for Adam. Carter seems to be the only girl not falling all over herself to get a glimpse of him. Which apparently makes her perfect for the secret offer of a lifetime: playing the role of Adam's girlfriend while he's in town, to improve his public image, in exchange for a hefty paycheck. Her family really needs the money and so Carters agrees. But it turns out Adam isn't at all who she thought he was. As they grow closer, their relationship walks a blurry line between what's real and what's fake, and Carter must open her eyes to the scariest of unexplored worlds - her future. Can Carter figure out what she wants out of life AND get the guy? Or are there no Hollywood endings in real life?
My take: For me, the greatest strengths of Catch a Falling Star were the character of Carter and the book's charming portrayal of small town life. Carter is a character who is described by another character as happy where she is and happy with herself. That may not be 100% true, but she's sort of refreshingly sweet and down to earth without seeming irritatingly goody-goody. But I loved the way that the book dug deeper -- is she really happy where she is, or is she just afraid to venture outside her familiar little world? Speaking of that world, I loved the wonderful little details of life in Little, California - yep, that's the town's name.
The romance in this one was interesting. When bad boy child star Adam Jakes comes to town, Carter is the only one in town who couldn't care less. But then, spurred on by some financial problems in her family, she agrees to a (paid) fauxmance with Adam. Things don't always go smoothly. Adam is an interesting character -- a kid who's never had a normal life and has a hard time trusting anyone. While he was a very hard character to warm up to, in the end I found Carter and Adam's slow burn romance to be a nice blend of realistic and romantic. In this book, the ending was just the beginning, if that makes sense.
A few things about the book fell short for me. Carter's family's financial problems seemed like a bit of a plot device at times. And Adam never really opened up to an extent that I felt that I understood him. But overall I was quite charmed by this one -- it's a celebrity romance story with a surprising amount of depth.