Stargazing is the most recent graphic novel from Jen Wang of The Prince and the Dressmaker fame. My 10 year old spotted Stargazing at San Diego Comic Con and we had to bring it home. She read it in one sitting and then began insisting that I needed to read it. The Prince and the Dressmaker blew me away so I had high expectations for Stargazing, and Wang did not disappoint. Once again she explores themes of friendship, identity, and privilege.
Christine Hong is Chinese American in a tight knit community. Her family hosts weekly Chinese school at their home for kids to practice reading, writing, and speaking Chinese. With her parents’ high expectations on achievement, Christine is studious and a good violinist. She’s compliant to her parents rules regarding no make-up, jewelry, or other things they deem frivolous. Though a good student and musician, Christine is not confident in her abilities.
Moon Lin is unlike any Chinese American girl Christine knows. Moon’s allowed free rein in a way that has Christine a little envious. Moon can dress less conservatively and paint her nails. Moon doesn’t know how to speak or read Chinese and has no interest in joining the class. She’s also outgoing and sometimes a bit brash. Beyond the superficial, Moon’s life is different than Christine’s. She’s being raised by her mother following the death of her father a few years ago. When we meet the Lins they are needing to find a new home as they can no longer afford the rent where they are living. The Hongs have a small cottage on the back of their property that is empty now that an elder relative has passed away, so they offer to rent it to the Lins, and Moon transfers to Christine’s school.
Due to a rumor that Moon had changed schools because of punching a kid, Christine is initially suspicious of her but an evening together finds the girls connecting through a shared love of music. The two become fast friends with Moon opening up about her deepest secrets and sharing her journal. Over time Moon makes new friends which sparks jealousy in Christine. This becomes especially bitter as a new friend has more freedoms to do things with Moon and Christine becomes weighed down with extra math classes to keep maintaining perfect grades. A tumultuous birthday party causes a scare and rift that Christine isn’t sure how to overcome. However, in the end, their friendship is strong enough to mend the hurt.
I enjoyed Stargazing. While aimed at the 8 to 12 year olds, it is a story for all ages and I would recommend it, especially if you liked The Prince and the Dressmaker.