cover image Star-Crossed


Barbara Dee. Aladdin, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4814-7848-9

A star student falls for the lead actress of her school play in this welcome addition to the middle grade LGBTQ bookshelf. Mattie Monaghan is looking forward to her eighth grade production of Romeo and Juliet—as well as getting to know her new crush, Gemma. Mattie’s friend Tessa has been to theater camp and bandies Shakespearean insults with gusto (“vile worm,” “scurvy knaves”), while beautiful, British Gemma is a shoo-in for Juliet. Mattie revels in the Bard’s words but is less confident in performing. When a classmate struggles as Romeo, Mattie is asked to step into the role, bringing her dizzyingly close to Gemma. Dee (Truth or Dare) thoughtfully dramatizes the intricate social performance of middle school, with its secret crushes and fierce rivalries. The book benefits from a memorable cast, though some of the students’ analysis of the play feels forced. Mattie’s narration is intimate and believable, and readers will be pleased to watch her grow from spectator to star. And although the ending is predictable, the tension holds. After all, even Romeo and Juliet’s fates are sealed in the play’s prologue. Ages 9–13. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Mar.)