Shveta Thakrar’s Star Daughter should be a dream story. It has everything I crave in novels these days – diversity, creativity, a hint of romance, and a strong female lead. Except, I found myself rather bored. After all, no amount of creativity and diversity can change the fact that Star Daughter is simply another coming-of-age/identity story, even if it happens to take place among the stars.
There are two aspects of Star Daughter I thoroughly enjoyed. One is this idea of Sheetal being half-star and visiting her star family. I am still not certain exactly what being a star means when it comes to where they live versus the constellations. After all, Sheetal’s best friend is able to get to this star location by hopping on clouds, so it is not like they live in space. Still, stars are not a fantasy creature you normally see, and the novelty of it was intriguing.
I also found Sheetal’s Desi background fascinating since it is so far removed from my own. Everything from the food to the clothes to the familial interactions was fresh and new in my eyes, no matter how often I read a story set in Eastern Asia or with an Eastern Asian main character/family. In fact, Star Daughter served as a great reminder that I still have room for improvement when it comes to diversifying my reading.
Still, Star Daughter is an oft-told tale of a teenager on the cusp of adulthood who must navigate the chaos of family and growing up. This chaos includes everything from family secrets, hidden agendas, ambition, power struggles, loyalty, and first love. No matter how exotic or unfamiliar its setting, there is nothing truly novel about Sheetal’s story.
Looking back on my recent reviews, I realize that I have not really loved the last four books read. I don’t think I am being too picky. There are plenty of novels I am currently reading or have read that give me that reader thrill we seek when reading. Instinctually, I know the coming-of-age story is a classic plotline that remains popular. I think my problem is the fact that these novels are too predictable.
Authors will continue to use this plotline because everyone can relate to it. However, I want them to make it fresh and exciting so that it feels like I am experiencing it for the very first time. This ability to make the old new again is what distinguishes a good author from an excellent one. Excellent authors don’t rely on window dressings to make their novels different, which is where I feel Ms. Thakrar goes wrong. She spends so much time establishing her star and Desi lifestyle that her characters suffer from one-dimensionality, resulting in a story that feels stale.
Star Daughter shows hints of something special. Unfortunately, this only compounds my frustration at its predictability and familiarity. I want more information about life as a star as well as the powers one has as a star or a half-star. Instead, I got a story that briefly touched on those powers but spent most of its time rehashing the age-old questions of “Who am I?” and “What is most important to me?” with answers that I could predict after the first two chapters. In other words, it is yet another frustratingly predictable read.