Review: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

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The Chaos of Stars will make you sound semi-intelligent when you talk to people whilst browsing Egyptian art exhibits. (Which was, of course, exactly what I did after finishing this book.)

The Chaos of Stars was a satisfying read – White really did work magic with this one. The cover of The Chaos of Stars paints a gorgeous scene of stars scattered through an endless sky, and the characters that White created are just like those stars: momentarily suspended in chaos, and other times, in peacefulness. White wove mythology into the story seamlessly and worked in lessons about the courage it takes to love and the importance of family and friends. The Chaos of Stars left me with a sense of righteousness and gratification, which are not my typical feels after a YA paranormal novel!

 

Introduction

Sixteen-year-old Isadora lives in Egypt, lines her eyes with kohl, secretly calls her brother “Whore-us” in her head, uses “floods” as a swear word, and is occasionally tasked with helping her mother make protection amulets – which are all perfectly normal, seeing as she’s the daughter of Osiris and Isis. Surrounded by a family full of Egyptian gods, Isadora is constantly reminded of the fact that she will die like a normal human while everyone else lives on. Her mother, Isis, is also about to have another baby, and Isadora feels like she’s being replaced; so when Isis’ dreams show that Isadora might be in danger and Isis sends her away to San Diego, California for a while, Isadora actually feels relieved. Isadora isn’t able to completely escape her family though – her mom forces her to volunteer at the local art museum during her stay to help set up an Egyptian collection. But as Isadora experiences her many “first’s” – first friends, first time eating slushies and pancakes, first feelings of what could be love for the blue-eyed Ry – her own nightmares of her mother in danger continue to plague her, and she begins to understand the true meaning of family ties.

Discussion

I don’t usually say this, but I really like all the characters in The Chaos of Stars – they’re memorable, regardless of whether they are protagonists, antagonists, or supporting characters. (I was going to use a they’re-just-like-stars analogy, but thought it was too cheesy.) Isadora embodies characteristics that most teenagers can relate to: she’s rebellious and insecure when it comes to her family (and relationships, period), and her stubborn streak cements her opinion that her thoughts and ideas are right. Her friends, Tyler, Scott, and Ry, really put the “supportive” in supporting characters, because they’re funny, sarcastic, and understanding when called for, and they really push the plot along. Isadora’s family is also full of unique personalities, glimpses of which can be seen from the different ways Isadora interact with them.

AND that’s what makes this book magical! White’s first-person narrative from Isadora’s perspective is so enthralling; Isadora’s realistic and emotional introspections draw me in, and they’re reinforced by how realistic her problems are. The main dilemma she has is: do my parents love or care about me? Isadora’s relationship issues with Ry ties into it, too:

I don’t want that. I won’t. I can accept that he is important to me. He’s a friend. I’d had no idea how much I needed friends until Tyler and Ry. And I’m vulnerable right now, still trying to find me in this new place, still trying to fill the holes inside. I can’t seem to keep my heart from leaking out of the cracks, like sand clutched in a fist.

But I won’t fill those holes with him. I can’t. To do that would invite other holes to be punched in right next to the ones my parents made.

I will fill myself with the desert and the sky. I will be stone and stars, unchanging and strong and safe. The desert is complete; it is spare and alone, but perfect in its solitude. I will be the desert.

Even though The Chaos of Stars does have some romance in it, the main focus is on family; when Isadora thinks that her mother might be in danger, the raw emotions she feels spill forth in the form of CAPS LOCK EVERYTHING and grammatically incorrect sentences and the incoherent way of expressing anger and frustration on paper. I don’t think there are many YA fantasy books that have family as a central theme, and that’s where White has excelled – The Chaos of Stars might not have as much action, romance, or angst as other popular books in this genre, but it really tugs at the heartstrings by looking at the complex feelings that teenagers (especially those with siblings) have for their parents, and vice versa.

Aside from family, the other key element that White included is Egyptian mythology. When I reviewed The Weight of Souls and mentioned that I wanted more Egyptian mythology, THIS IS IT. I really like how at the beginning of each chapter, a short story about certain Egyptian gods and goddesses is told, but it’s really Isadora telling the story and these are her aunts and uncles and brothers she’s talking about, so she always tacks on some flippant remark at the end of the story that cracks me up. It’s a fun way of learning about Egyptian mythology, so THIS BOOK IS EDUCATIONAL TOO. Boom, double whammy right there.

Conclusion

So The Chaos of Stars in one word: magical. The characters are likable and multi-dimensional; the narrative is expressive and contagious; and the The Chaos of Stars shines like a star with the incorporation of mythology and a unique theme for a book of this genre. If you like magic and mythology in YA books and you like LEARNING something from books, read The Chaos of Stars! And if you like to laugh, feel sentimental, or star-gaze, you should give The Chaos of Stars a try too.

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8 thoughts on “Review: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

  1. Oh man, this book sounds amazing! I’m definitely, definitely, definitely going to have to read it. Ever since I first read Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, I’ve been looking for more books featuring Egyptian mythology but this looks to be by far the best of all I’ve heard of. BTW, have you ever read the Theodosia Throckmorton series?

    • Yesss go read it! It’s such a good combination of YA and Egyptian mythology! I’ve never read the Kane Chronicles or the Theodosia Throckmorton series, but I’ll definitely have a look; the last blatantly-Egypt-related book I read was The Egypt Game, and that was a very long time ago haha. 🙂 I also just realized that I rarely pick up Egypt books when I want to read something “cultural”… I usually veer towards European countries. Hm, gotta change that.

      • *laughs* The Egypt Game was the last one I read too, but it was only a couple months ago. I think most of my “cultural” books are set in England… Whoops… XD

        • Oh, cool! I know there’s a lot of hype about new releases, but I love to re-visit all those old books (which is why I really like your Throwback Thursdays! :)).

          And and I have the same problem with England ahahaha. Here I am trying to get some books about Africa or China or Ethiopia in, and England comes along and I just can’t resist… bah.

          • Yes, there really is! And all those entries about them – either stating new releases for that week/day or the ‘Waiting for Wednesdays’ ones – sometimes make me feel so pressured to stop reading ones that have been out for years and get onto the newer reads! Which is why I’m glad that I’m reading The Book Thief right now, because it’s like ‘yay, old(er) book, but relevant thanks to the movie!’ XD

            Aww, thank you! That was the very first weekly feature I came up with to include in my blog before I found out about all the weekly memes out there already. I’ve no idea what book I’m going to spotlight this week, though….

            YES! There is just something about England, especially London, that is so appealing! I should be an honorary citizen because of all the England-based books I read and the BBC shows that I watch. I’m so thankful that the book series John Barrowman (I love him so much) and his sister Carole are writing together (Hollow Earth) takes place in Scotland so whenever I read those I can be like ‘HA! It’s Scotland!’

            • Yeah, it’s kind of like getting new shiny toys vs getting old worn-out-by-love toys. 😛 It’s hard to choose sometimes. (I’ve never actually read The Book Thief OR realized that the movie just came out coughcough I’m so behind…)

              Oh no, another series on my to-read list haha… wait DO YOU WATCH SHERLOCK??

              • It really is, especially when you’re seeing all the reviews for the new releases and hearing how good they are…. I think I’m going to have to switch back and forth every other read between books that have been out for awhile and new releases or something.

                YEP! Sherlock is awesome! 😀 I actually wore a Sherlock-inspired t-shirt on Saturday because I felt I needed to wear something bookish, and it’s gonna play into my Boston BF blog post a bit 😉

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