Friday, September 2, 2011

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Title: Eyes Like Stars
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: July 7, 2009
Pages: 352 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it

All her world's a stage.

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.

She's not an orphan, but she has no parents.

She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.

Until now.


NATE: Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie (as she's known at the theater).

COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARDSEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM: Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. Bertie's sidekicks.

ARIEL: Seductive air spirit and Bertie's weakness. The symbol of impending doom.

BERTIE: Our heroine.

Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Theatre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family... and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty, with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.



The Theatre Illuminata with its magical book of plays, eccentric characters, and all the friends she's ever known is Bertie Shakespeare Smith's home and she's dismayed to learn that the Theater Manager wants her to leave and strike out on her own. How can she leave? It means too much to her! With the Theater Manager's word that she can stay if she can find an invaluable way to contribute to the theater, Bertie sets out to restage Hamlet--not an easy task when four annoying fairies are always fluttering around, the Players are adverse to change, and Ariel, the air spirit of The Tempest fame, is doing what he can to make sure Bertie fails in her task.

What really makes Eyes Like Stars shine above anything else (any pun you might have seen there never happened) is the characters. Bertie's conflict is relatable--it can parallel anyone's fears of leaving home or a familiar place for the unknown--and she's complex too. She makes mistakes like all teenagers do and no one is afraid to call her on it when she does. The love interests Nate and Ariel both have great chemistry with Bertie (if you read the tango scene and still try to say Ariel and Bertie have no chemistry together, stop reading right now because we're not going to agree on anything about this book), but I've got my issues with both of them and I'm not quite sold on them yet. Even more than Bertie did, Ophelia stood out to me and even after my fifth re-read of this book, she remains my favorite character.

Two more fitting words for the book? Funny and clever. The comedic timing is perfect and it's harder to find a line that isn't quotable than one that is. The four fairy sidekicks from A Midsummer Night's Dream provide plenty of comic relief and the narration itself isn't afraid of a witty quip or two. To the book's benefit, the understated prose keeps the focus on what's going on with the characters rather than on the words. The irony of this in a book with a focus on the power of words isn't lost on me. When I was reading it, I thought, This is how I want to write. Why can't I be this good? *jealous*

The big reveal at the end felt too sudden and a little rushed, and I wasn't sure why Bertie had completely forgotten her childhood like she did. It's one thing for another character to forget what happened while they were away from the theater, but what about Bertie? She didn't seem to know about it because she never thought about it beforehand and she seemed just as surprised as everyone else when it was explained. What caused her selective amnesia? She's got to remember something about it, right? I hate to think it or put it into words, but it seems like a choice made for plot convenience. Not knowing about how she spent her younger years made the plot run more smoothly, but it leaves questions like this unanswered.

Despite my fussing, I love this book and the series to pieces. It saddens me that there is so little attention paid to it (as far as I've seen, not many people have heard of it) and then far worse series regularly top bestseller lists with each new installment. Bad books pile up like muck and you've really got to dig to get to the good books, the buried treasure. Hopefully, this will change; I've already got plans to recommend the entire series to my local library and a few teachers I know so that others can be caught in the spell of the Theatre Illuminata and give it the attention and adoration it rightly deserves.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev