Hello hello, and welcome or welcome back to my little corner of the internet. Today I’m reviewing Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter.
I was initally granted this book as a review copy via NetGalley, but when I didn’t get around to reading it in time for publication, I read it as an audiobook. My vision has been get worse recently so I’m reading more and more books this way, and have started requesting more of them as audio on NetGalley as well, as I’m reading them far quicker when I’m not struggling to read on a physical level and can lay there with an audiobook in my headphones and an eye mask on, able to just process what I’m listening to.
Trigger Warning for rape and sexual assault.
Celeste Morton has eagerly awaited her passage into adulthood. Like every woman, she holds a map of the future in her skin, every mole and freckle a clue to unlocking what will come to pass. With puberty comes the changeling period – when her final marks will appear, those that will solidify her fate – and that of those around her. The possibilities are tantalising enough to outweigh her worry that the future she dreams of won’t be the one she’s fated to have – or the fact the changeling period is the most dangerous in a woman’s life. A time when abduction is rife.
For some, glimpses are not enough. There are men who wish to possess these futures for themselves. Whose only way to take control of the future is to take control of the women who hold the script. Abducted changelings return shunned from society with their futures stolen.
Celeste’s life, and her marks, have always been closely entwined with her brother, Miles. Celeste’s skin holds a future only he, as a gifted interpreter, can read and he has always considered Celeste his practice ground. But when Celeste changes she learns a secret about her brother, Miles, that she will do anything to keep to herself – and Miles is keeping a secret too. When the lies of brother and sister collide, Celeste determines to create a future that is truly her own.
This book is a spectacular work of fiction. It submerges you utterly into the world, and allows you to get completely lost in what is going on. What I thought was most clever about the set up for this novel is that at first, we’re very much given the impression that girls and women have more control and success in this alternative world, with their futures maped out, and that of their male relatives, it seems they’re the ones holding the cards. However, as the book progresses, it becomes more and more clear that in this world, there are just different ways and motivations for girls and women to be controlled and abused.
A friend of Miles’ is abducted and we see through Celeste’s eyes the sterotypes that exisit in her world, mirroring those of our own; that it’s the outgoing girls, the girls who draw attention to themselves, the ones who are proud to be drawing extra attention. In summary, the ones who deserve to be taken. There are so many people who think something similar in our world where it comes to rape and sexual assault, and it is mainly thought or said without thought for what that actually means. They don’t really think anyone deserves to be raped. They just think that some draw attention to themselves more than others.
Celeste learns the hard way that this isn’t how it works when she is drugged, and wakes up on the ward dedicated for ‘ruined’ girls. Her father blames her. She is no longer allowed to attend university. It’s not expected she’ll return to school. She will have to submit her paperwork of being abused for two weeks every time she applies for a job in the future.
Later she takes blood flower, an substance that helps recover memories. When she goes to the police with the ability to describe her attacker, who she remembers being a teacher, they tell her to go home and adjust to her new life. This occurs about two thirds of the way through the book; there is still plenty to experience, and enjoy, after this distressing part. I’m being very specific as a sexual abuse survivor as I would encourage readers to keep going through and after, as the outcome of the book is worthwhile.
Throughout the horror included within the storyline, it’s important to state that the book doesn’t use sexual abuse as a plot device in ways that have been seen previously; simply for thrilling drama. What happens here is that there is a young woman who rebuilds herself from her trauma. Who is “no longer the girl they had known”, but who looks forward, onwards. For me, for everything I have been through, I found hope, maybe in a time when I needed it most.
Body of Stars manages to be both beautiful and harrowing at the same time, demonstrating that in so many ways, even science fiction doesn’t allow for a world where women are safe, and will be forever blamed for what they go through. I found it to be one of the most powerful words of fiction I have read, and is so reflective while capturing a dystopian world it was almost painful at points. The world is a better place for books like this.