After the attack that leaves her little sister, Ella, close to death in a snowy cornfield, Claire Graham is sent to live with her aunt in Manhattan to cope. But the guilt of letting Ella walk home alone that night still torments Claire, and she senses the violence that preyed on her sister hiding around every corner. Her shrink calls it a phobia. Claire calls it the truth.
When Ella vanishes two years later, Claire has no choice but to return to Amble, Ohio, and face her shattered family. Her one comfort is Ella’s diary, left in a place where only Claire could find it. Drawing on a series of cryptic entries, Claire tries to uncover the truth behind Ella’s attack and disappearance. But she soon realizes that not all lost things are meant to be found.
Andrea Hannah’s Of Scars and Stardust was a compelling read, but also one that is hard to review. Saying too much might spoil Hannah’s careful build-up of the narrative and the story’s suspense, but at the same time it’s hard to talk about it without touching upon anything that might give hints about how the story ends. So, be warned, I’ll try to review the story without spoilers, but there might be some.
The narrator of the story and its heart is Claire. I loved her voice, but she is a completely unreliable narrator. Yet Hannah had me fooled for the entire story. She posited several options for the riddle of the wolves: that they were real, that they were a metaphor for the truth Claire didn’t want to acknowledge, or that they were figments of her imagination, and I hadn’t guessed the correct option until quite late in the story, even if I doubted all three options at some point. This uncertainty is enhanced by, and perhaps even the cause of, the paranoia, mistrust, and fear that suffuse the novel’s atmosphere.
The setting of Amble, Ohio, with its small town mentality only reinforces this feeling of being watched as everyone knows everyone and everything. It also makes anything out of the ordinary taboo and Claire with her history and her mental health issues, which we learn about early on in the novel, is very much a ‘persona non grata’ to the townsfolk of Amble. The only person to move past this is Grant, Claire’s former best friend’s little brother and childhood infatuation. When Claire returns a chance encounter sparks fly between them rekindling all the attraction they felt in the past. Grant was easy to like and his calm and caring demeanour not just for Claire, but for his sister Rae as well, was lovely. His unconditional support for Claire was wonderful, yet also one of the things that made me doubt everything that the evidence pointed to the truth.
I did have one big problem with Of Scars and Stardust. What bugged me to no end, was the way that the adults kept the truth from Claire. The truth of what happened to Ella, of why she’s in New York and why exactly she needs to visit Dr Barges every week. While I can understand not wanting a traumatised teen to receive further shocks, one would also expect that knowing the truth would be a large part of her treatment. But more importantly, I don’t understand why Claire’s parents would never visit her in New York. How can you not see your child for two years? Regardless of having to care for Ella in her recovery and money and time considerations, how can they just not visit at all? And not explain to Claire why? I just couldn’t wrap my head around that.
Despite that bugbear, I enjoyed the time I spent with Of Scars and Stardust. Tense, chilling, and scary, its mystery made me keep reading, because I really wanted to discover what had actually happened with Claire, Ella, and Grant. While the mystery is resolved and we discover what happened that night two years ago, the ending is rather ambiguous and quite fitting for the story.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.