The stars have aligned and they’re pointing in Minnie Darke’s direction. To the Libra who is a hopeless romantic, the Aries with boundless optimism, and the ever-reliable Taurus looking for a novel as dependable as they are, prepare to fall in love.
In the weeks leading up to the publication of Minnie Darke’s Star-crossed, it seemed you couldn’t check any social media account without coming across an image of the now instantly recognisable cover. Penguin absolutely nailed the promo for this one. I hadn’t read a blurb nor seen a review before I was logging on to my local library’s website and placing a hold for the novel everyone was talking about.
When the book arrived on shelf, I dropped everything and made picking up the novel a priority. A friend, upon seeing my excitement, asked me what the book was about. “I don’t exactly know,” I had to admit. “Astrology, I think?” It takes a powerful publicity campaign to encourage a reader to pick up a book with such limited knowledge as I had of Star-crossed, but I was certain that even if I hadn’t read the synopsis yet, this was a story I needed to read.
Just a few pages in and I knew my hunch was correct: this was worth the hype. Star-crossed follows the delightfully-relatable character of Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and sceptic) as she meddles with the stars to draw the attention of childhood friend Nick Jordan (Aquarius, struggling actor and true believer). What starts as a seemingly harmless rewrite of the horoscope column in the local newspaper, courtesy of a lovestruck Justine, goes on to have repercussions even the most qualified astrologist couldn’t have predicted. The power of words has never been more apparent than in this novel’s awareness of cause and effect. Darke expertly illustrates how a falling leaf in one town can cause an avalanche in the next, where Justine’s changes to the monthly Aquarius horoscope influence the lives of people she’s never met in the most monumental of ways.
While Star-crossed is a love story at its heart, it’s the refreshing commentary on the lives of everyday people that truly draws you in. There is something so impressive about an author who can make even the most mundane of activities beautiful, where a life that follows a pattern of go to work, return home, possibly find time for a packet of two-minute noodles before bed and start all over again becomes endearing rather than monotonous. Justine may feel her life is lacking the star quality she desires, but through a course of increasingly life-changing events, she begins to find the extraordinary moments she’s looking for.
The relationship between Justine and Nick plays out wonderfully. The pacing is perfect, with no moment too rushed and no major shift in feeling arriving too soon. Cause and effect follow each other seamlessly, and we’re carried along as Justine and Nick’s affections for each other become as clear as day. It’s a relationship that feels real—more than the cliché love story you might expect if you were to take this novel at face value. Star-crossed is anything but; there is a depth to these characters that isn’t often found in romantic literature, a depth that forms part of its undeniable charm.
Justine and Nick’s relationship is the tug at your heartstrings that keeps you turning pages well into the night when reading Star-crossed, but it’s not the only element that makes this novel such a well-executed piece of work. As a reader, you want to find qualities you can relate to in the characters you fall in love with. Both Justine and Nick offer such qualities in spades (I do wish I was bold enough to carry around a marker to change offending spelling errors in public places). Perhaps one of the most notable of these qualities is the junction each character finds themselves at in their careers, not knowing whether to push forward or start again. It’s a headache most people can relate to and one that you find yourself invested in from the moment you begin to read Darke’s novel. Read a little closer and you might even find some advice you can apply to your own life.
With every new novel I read, I generally come away with one writing technique I like to give a special focus to. In Star-crossed, it’s the character introductions. The simple tool of introducing each character’s name, followed by their star-sign and defining characteristics in brackets, is a stroke of genius by Darke. It’s a convenient way to present a new character, while also providing the effect of tying in with the astrology theme perfectly. This technique came into play among the first few pages and instantly, I was hooked.
Star-crossed is a light read that packs more depth than its synopsis would suggest. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I would add not to judge a book by its blurb. One hundred words can never do a novel justice, only spark an interest to encourage you to read more. For those who saw “astrology” and “romance” and immediately dismissed the idea, ignore your pessimistic Cancer tendencies and channel the curiosity of a Gemini. You’re missing out on something great.
Rating: Not for me | Solid read | Would read again | Exquisite
Star-crossed by Minnie Darke is available now via Penguin Books Australia.