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The Language of Stars Hardcover – May 31, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Sarah's social transformation from someone with a small set of unique friends to the girlfriend of the most popular boy in school, Fry, results in an exciting but ultimately shallow set of experiences. Perhaps the final straw in her estrangement from not only her former friends but also her own interests and values is when she is arrested for the vandalism and destruction of the preserved summer cottage of the legendary poet, Rufus Baylor. As part of their restitution, the teenagers involved in the offenses must participate in a summer poetry course taught by the famous but aging poet. Rufus's presence in the town is almost magical. He turns apathetic teenagers into poets; changes Sarah's irresponsible and hostile father into a calmer, more receptive listener; and convinces the community to forgive the teens for ruining the idolized summer cottage. Rufus is not without his own demons and flaws, as Sarah learns while working with him on her poetry. Soon, she begins to question her relationship with Fry and considers revisiting her former passion for the theater. Her struggle with the decision to be true to herself is one that many teens will recognize. However, the pacing is slow, the characters are one-dimensional, and readers will see the ending coming long before it finally arrives. VERDICT Collections that serve a club of aspiring teen poets may want this title to encourage their creativity and passion for the craft; otherwise, this is an additional purchase.—Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
An act of vandalism revitalizes a small town. Sarah Wheeler, the novel's presumably white narrator, has hit a fork in the road. Though at heart from the nerdy, lit- and drama-loving "Untouchables," she's now dating Fry, the hottest surfer dude at Whale Point High. When Fry throws a kegger in a cherished local landmark, Sarah joins him, against her better judgment—and the seaside cottage,former retreat of famed poet Rufus Baylor, ends up in flames. The drunken escapade lands Sarah and most of the partiers in court, sentenced to restoringthe trashed cottage and taking a summer writing class taught by none other thanthe mythic and octogenarian Baylor. Baylor's return to Whale Point injects new life into the sleepy community, prompting Sarah's single mother and her largely absent "biological accident" father to re-examine their relationships with their daughter. At the same time, with Baylor's attention and poetic inspiration, Sarah begins to look more closely at herself. While the circumstances leading to such communal introspection may be a bit far-fetched,Hawes excels in crafting rounded characters with varied home situations teens can relate to, and poems infused throughout the narrative offer poetic points of attachment as well as examples of different writing techniques (group- and free-writing, donning blindfolds, etc.) budding writers might attempt. A tale of self-discovery well suited for art-inclined readers who feel themselves on the fringe. (Fiction. 14-18) (Kirkus Reviews 3/15/16)
Hawes(Black Pearls: A FaerieStrand) transforms carelessness into redemption in a summer story that begins after a group of teens break into and throw a raging party at abeloved local poet’s cottage, trashing it and nearly burning it to the ground. (A note explainsthat the story is partly inspired by a similar 2008 incident involving Robert Frost’s summer home.) Sarah, Hawes’s wide-eyed narrator, has an innate poetic bent and only reluctantly took part in the break-in because of her popular boyfriend, Fry. Though Sarah’s relationship with Fry is central to the plot,the real romance is one of words. The teens are sentenced to restore the cottage and take a poetry course—taught by the house’s elderly owner, Rufus Baylor, who becomes a mentor to Sarah. Full of poetry and ideas, Sarah’snarration has an exuberant innocence, bringing a fresh and joyful quality to astory about a girl learning to love the possibilities that come with independence: the chance to discover one’s true self and desires, while forging a path forward that might fulfill them. Ages 12–up. (Publishers Weekly March 7, 2016)
For years, poet laureate Rufus Baylor spent his summers renting a cottage in the resort town, Whale Point, and now the cottage-turned-museum is a beloved landmark. When high-school students break in and throw a party, causing thousands of dollars of damage, the judge sentences them to a summer of poetry classes taught by the legendary poet. Sarah is ashamed of her role—her boyfriend Fry was the leader, but she followed, afraid of losing her newfound popularity—but the class doesn’t feel like punishment. Instead, Baylor’s passionate teaching reminds Sarah of who she was before she starting dating Fry and gives her a way to express herself. Though often sentimental and low on conflict, this is a rewarding character study of an elderly mentor and a young student who each rediscover the power of creative expression. Hawes’ simple, lovely poetry illustrates Sarah’s inner journey as her rocky relationships with estranged parents, friends, and boyfriend change. This is a tale of forgiveness, listening to the world, and looking beyond the surface. — Krista Hutley (Booklist April 20, 2016)
Sarah gave up her quirky friends for popular boyfriend Fry junior year. Though it’s his loathsome idea to throw a kegger at “National Treasure” poet Rufus Baylor’s summer cottage, a historical site on the outskirts of their coastal North Carolina town, Sarah doesn’t outwardly object—or stop drunken partygoers from ravaging the place. After being busted, the miscreants are sentenced to community service and to a poetry-appreciation summer class, and the story deepens considerably once the elderly poet himself arrives to teach the course. A warm, natural teacher, Rufus inspires even the most poetry-averse delinquents, but especially Sarah, who becomes his protégé and friend. As Sarah finds her voice, the first-person narration naturally becomes more lyrical, and she also sheds her unappealing passivity. She stands up to her controlling mother, who pressures her toward med school; to Fry, who she knows isn’t right for her; and ultimately to fatherly Rufus when he attempts to project his dreams onto her future. Even before reading Hawes’s note on the story’s inspiration, poetry-loving readers should pick up on the Robert Frost–like sensibilities in Baylor, whose work is steeped in the natural beauty of his regional setting. With Sarah’s and Rufus’s poems included, readers will find much to savor in this book, an inspiring redemption story and an ode to the transformative power of verse. (Horn Book July/August 2016)
Sarah is a high school student who ditches her old friends and begins hanging out with the popular crowd and a new, popular boyfriend. One day, after drinking one too many beers at a party, things escalate and famous poet Rufus Baylor’s house is burned and trashed. Fortunately, Sarah and her friends aren’t sentenced to jail, but instead a poetry appreciation course taught by the famous poet himself. Rufus becomes somewhat of a mentor for Sarah while she is battling with her new life, her pushy mother who wants her to be someone she is not, and other family issues. Eventually, Sarah begins to find out who she really is and who she wants to become. Hawes has created an excellent and witty plot with a different sense of style that is a bit like a montage, weaving together the story, sounds Sarah hears around her, and poems. Sexual references and profanity make this title suitable for high school students. (School Library Connection 08/01/16)
"A tale of self-discovery well suited for art-inclined readers who feel themselves on the fringe." (Kirkus)
"[Sarah's] struggle with the decision to be true to herself is one that many teens will recognize." (School Library Journal)
Full of poetry and ideas, Sarah’s narration has an exuberant innocence, bringing a fresh and joyful quality to a story about a girl learning to love the possibilities that come with independence: the chance to discover one’s true self and desires, while forging a path forward that might fulfill them. (Publishers Weekly)
"A rewarding character study [about] the power of creative expression. This is a tale of forgiveness, listening to the world, and looking beyond the surface." (Booklist)
"Readers will find much to savor in this book, an inspiring redemption story and an ode to the transformative power of verse." (Horn Book)
"An excellent and witty plot with a different sense of style...weaving together the story, sounds Sarah hears around her, and poems." (School Library Connection)
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Top customer reviews
THE LANGUAGE OF STARS shows readers the true meaning of self-discovery and allows for the audience to enjoy nice poetry while trying to grasp the deeper meanings. I absolutely loved reading THE LANGUAGE OF STARS because I could relate to Sarah so well. I’m still really unsure about what I want to pursue in the future. My parents wish for me to become a business lawyer, similar to Sarah’s mom’s longing for her to be a doctor; and I also have similar struggles as Sarah does when contemplating which friend circle to stay in. Another reason why I enjoyed reading this is because I’m a new fan of poetry. I’ve begun to enjoy reading as well as writing poetry on my own, so reading about a famous poet helping others find inspiration and teaching students to write poetry helped me as well. I loved the development of all of the characters in the novel and it was, overall, a very inspiring read.
Louise Hawes wrote a very well-written story that I find very few issues with. The timing of the story was good but there were events that I felt needed further explaining to help readers better understand the significance of them. The ending also felt a bit rushed, which I can somewhat understand since it didn’t impact the moral of the story too much. However, the ending is a pretty emotional part that could’ve been slowed down to allow for readers to take a breath after reading that section. One aspect that I loved about the book is how Hawes incorporated a poem at the end of every chapter, although I wish the poems reflected the progress of Sarah’s learning during that chapter so they’d be more meaningful. I would recommend this book to all poetry fans as well as non-poetry fans. I believe that anyone trying to figure out who they are and what their future will be like should read this for inspiration.
Reviewed by Alyssa L., Teen Board Member
Louise Hawes intersperses her polished prose story with poems written by the various characters--Sarah, the other students, and their master teacher--capturing each character's voice and experience so clearly in that individual character's verse that I sometimes forgot that one skillful writer created them all. The Language of Stars stirs and heightens the senses--a worthy accomplishment!
Beautifully written, and also a good influence. You'll painlessly learn about the art of writing and creativity while being fascinated by the characters. A must-read. Makes me want to write in that genre.
Part "inspirational teacher" novel, part coming-of-age story and ALL HEART!