Contemporary Young Adult
Walker Children's Books
Received via NetGalley for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.
The synopsis for Shooting Stars suggests we’ll get a fairly predictable tale of a young woman who sets out to accomplish one goal but inevitably realizes said goal no longer holds the appeal it did initially, and while it certainly is that, Ms. Rushby does add substance and a few twists that reduce the overall predictability to give us a pleasantly intriguing read. While we aren’t necessarily astounded by creative brilliance or floored by the poetic depth of the characters, we are given a quick and fun plot that’s perfect for those days when we just want a brief disconnect from our lives that doesn’t weigh us down with drama or overwhelm us with emotion, but rather allows us to sink into a story, enjoy ourselves, and then return to our lives with a smile of contentment.
Jo, also known as Paparazzo Jo or Zo Jo for short, is a surprisingly mature sixteen year-old, almost entirely on her own as her paparazzo father spends weeks at a time exploring business ventures overseas. She’s easy to like and easy to respect as guilt settles heavily on her shoulders from the very beginning over the job she’s assigned, and our respect for her only continues to grow as she battles internally with what she knows in her gut and heart is wrong, and externally with a woman who seems to have very little heart at all. She’s always thinking, not in a conniving or scheming way, but more in a remarkably adult way as she tries to absorb all the information she can before she makes a decision we know will profoundly hurt someone else.
Though this is a shorter story coming in under three hundred pages, the romantic element doesn’t feel rushed or forced, progressing at a nice pace that’s cute and believable without any added teenage angst or melodrama. Ned matches Jo in maturity–the circumstances of their lives forcing them to grow up far quicker than their peers—and as a result their conversations feel more meaningful than we expect initially, bringing a smile to our faces as we bask in the genuineness of their interactions despite the monstrous lie wedged snugly between them. The tension created by the large elephant following them room to room in the retreat flutters incessantly in our guts the entire time we read, our sweet romantic haze tempered by our nervousness over the impending showdown when Ned learns the truth of Jo’s presence, giving us just enough of a bite to the story to keep us interested and emotionally involved.
Ms. Ashby tosses a few twists in toward the end, events unfolding in a way we don’t necessarily see coming (at least I didn’t), and delighting us with a bit of a new direction when we had already resigned ourselves to an easily foreseeable conclusion. Cute, quick, and light, Shooting Stars is the perfect palate cleanser before starting or after finishing a richer and heavier story.