Rising, Falling, Shooting
Kira Statson/English IV
The Life History of a Star
Kelly Easton has written many books for children and young adults, and through most of her books she explores the emotional changes that occur within her characters. Her first novel, The Life History of a Star carefully follows a teenage girl's transformation from; in the main character, Kristen, own words; “a boy” to a emotional, powerful, intellectual young women.
The Life History of a Star has everything you expect to find in a coming-of-age novel. Confusion with physical changes, emotional ups and downs in her relationships with family and friends, a re-mapping of social and educational priorities, and a first exposure to sexual advances; everything necessary to make the changes from adolescence to adulthood. However, all of these requisites for a coming-of-age novel are given a new spin when viewed through the eyes of Kristin Folger.
The story takes place in Glendora, California in the early 1970's. We are first introduced to Kristin towards the end of her eight grade year. She is sarcastic, disappointed, and intelligent. She likes reading, astronomy, and “being an intellectual”. She hates P.E, bad food, and her school English teacher.
She sees her world as black and white. She sees the things she likes and the things she doesn't. She feels that certain people can be totally described by one word, often using the phrase “to a T”, such as when she “I should show Mom the definition of “narcissism” in my psychology book. She fits it to a T”. Even though she views herself as a complex intellectual, she says of herself “There's a philosophy I found out about form it, that sounds like it would suit me to a T: existentialism”.
Her world is classified into groups: she is a boy, her friend Carol is a girl. “The masses are asses”, individuals are right. Wrongs should be identified and the culprits punished, things that are right should be admired and worked towards. There is a ghost in the attic and he is not her brother. She does not need to grow up to be grown up.
As the book progresses, though, we see her vision of reality slowly crack and gradually shatter. We see the black and the white disappear, only to be replaced with shadows and lights. Things she thought she could understand and classify and group into neat little piles become cluttered and confused and her diary becomes her refuge from a world that is out of her control.
Kristin's voice, always so strong and cynical, becomes quiet and frightened. She becomes more than just disappointed, she becomes thwarted in her efforts to make the world what she believes it should be. She gains the freedoms she wanted, but she realizes that with freedom comes the realization that free time is useless without something to do with it.
The reader gains a relationship with Kristin, not only through what she records of her world but also through what she does not need to say. The diary does not include every event of every day of her life. She records her story, a tragic yet humorous tale for only her eyes. Even in her darkest moments she still sees the humor in life and in people.
Her relationships and friends change and change her as the book progresses. Her childhood friend falls in love with her, her best girl friend get married, and she tries to replace the ghost with her other brother. Her parents become what she never expected, her teachers effect her in ways she never imagined, and her grandmother proves to her what she never thought was possible. People can change for the better.
The story concludes, as every worthwhile coming-of-age story must, on a note of acceptance and with the antagonist in a position where she is ready to move on. She takes the world that she has always seen as against her and finally realizes that it is not her enemy. We see her shattered world glued back together, crookedly, but in a way that she can see it's future.
When reading Kelly Easton's The Life History of a Star, with having a knowledge of Kelly Easton's own adolescent story, the reader will notice similarities between Easton's life and that of her character's, Kristin. Perhaps it is because of Easton's own childhood that she was able to so accurately depict the emotions and thoughts of a cynical, sarcastic, thoughtful, honest, outsider. The clarity and depth of feeling portrayed in this book can only come from an author who knows the inner workings of a dysfunctional family, but has overcome her situation, and created a world of her own. This novel is as much Easton's story as it is Kristin's.
Reading this book shows the ups and downs and spirals and trips and stillness and changes and confusion that goes along with the passage of adolescence. The re-creation of a historical period and the reflection of humanity during the 1970's breathes life into Kelly Easton's first novel. Her power as a writer and force as a human create a diary well worth the time to read, and well worth the time Kristin will haunt you.