Sunday, January 5, 2020

Stargazing by Jen Wang

Christine Hong is a quiet, reserved Chinese American girl concerned with her grades, church, going to Chinese school, and playing the violin, who nevertheless always feels inadequate in her more traditional Chinese family where hard work and doing well are so highly valued.

When her parents learn that a single Chinese American woman, YuWen Lin and her daughter Moon, are having money problems, they offer them their extra apartment. Moon is Christine's age but the two girls couldn't be more different. Moon is confident, loud, loves listening to K-pop, is vegetarian and Buddhist, and does not attend Chinese school. Moon is also quick with her fists when someone gets in her face. At first, Christine tries to keeps her distance from Moon. Yet, despite their differences, the two girls become best friends and little by little Moon begins to broaden Christine's interests, interests that Christine gladly embraces.

Now that Moon is going to the same school as Christine, she soon begins to make other friends and becomes quite popular. Still, the two friends hang out together, listening to music and dancing. Then, one day, Moon confides in Christine that she believes she is actually a celestial being who doesn't belong on earth and that someday the angel people she constantly draws are going to come for her. Christine seems to accept this but when her grades slip, she starts to distance herself from Moon again. Now, Moon's popularity is causing Christine to feel jealous and at a birthday party for one of the other kids, she leaves Moon's private notebook with her angel people drawings in it for the other kids to see. When they make fun of Moon, she settles things with her fists. Leaving the party, Moon collapses and ends up in the hospital with a serious illness requiring brain surgery.

While Moon is recovering in the hospital, Christine has a lot to think about, including her own feelings and actions. But after all is said and done, is it possible for these two girls to remain friends?

There are a number of things in this graphic novel that I really liked:

First, the illustrations are very appealing. They are simple  and clean and capture the different characters personalities and emotions with clarity, and there is no mixing up characters, which can sometimes happen in graphic novels. Perhaps all this is due to Wang using pencil and ballpoint pen to draw the illustrations, then coloring them in digitally. What do you think?
The first time Christine sees Moon at a church recital
I think that Wang has created a Chinese American community that is very true to life and that by creating such different girls, one raised traditionally, one raised more unconventionally, she is able to show some of the difficulties kids like Christine have navigating their lives as second generation kids and coming to terms with who they really are.

Ultimately, though, Stargazing is a wonderful example of the ups and downs of middle grade friendships and how volatile they can sometimes be. Incorporating Moon's brain tumor creates a really transformative event for both girls as they become their more authentic selves. This is a poignant, realistic story that should appeal to all middle grade readers.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle. 


  1. There are lot of good things going for this graphic novel highlighting a Chinese/American community. Also like the differences between the two girls and the angst associated with school and friends drifting. Haven't seen a major character with a brain tumor in a story. Great share.

  2. I'm not a big reader of graphic novel but this one sounds intriguing. Thanks for your thoughts and for the sample page. Happy MMGM!

  3. I'm like Greg about graphic novels but this one sounds good. Plus my daughter was adopted from China, another reason to check it out.

  4. This sounds like a really great read! I love that it realistically depicts the diverse personalities in the Chinese/American population. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


Imagination Designs