Like every woman, Celeste Morton holds a map of the future in her skin, every mole and freckle a clue to unlocking what will come to pass. With puberty comes the changeling period – when her final marks will appear and her future is decided.
The possibilities are tantalising enough for Celeste’s excitement to outweigh her fear. Changelings are sought after commodities and abduction is rife as men seek to possess these futures for themselves.
Celeste’s marks have always been closely entwined with her brother, Miles. Her skin holds a future only he, as a gifted interpreter, can read and he has always considered his sister his practice ground. But when Celeste’s marks change she learns a devastating secret about her brother’s future that she must keep to herself – and Miles is keeping a secret of his own. When the lies of brother and sister collide, Celeste determines to create a future that is truly her own.
Length: 374 pages
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Trigger warnings: sexual assault
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review. This does not impact on my opinions.
Body of Stars is an unusual book. It’s set in a modern day world, albeit without (as far as I could tell) social media and the internet. Celeste is nearly 16 years old at the beginning of the story, and she’s a normal American high school girl, except for the marks on her skin, on all girls’ skin, that predicts (and dictates) her future.
Every girl in this world has these marks, and they are recorded by the government just as their school marks are recorded. These marks, and the act of surrendering them to the authorities, determines their futures – whether they will be accepted into university, which one, and one kind of job they will do. Their perceived chastity also determines this future.
Girls go through a changeling period after their marks have shifted into their ‘adult markings’, which makes them especially attractive, and vulnerable, to men. Girls are often abducted during this period in their lives, and if they are, their lives are ruined. They cannot go to university, and are relegated to menial jobs for the rest of their lives.
I can see how this book might be a bit too obvious in its messaging and theme for some people. It’s not subtle in what it’s saying. For me, I read this book at the right time. The news has been full of what happened to Sarah Everard, and the stories women have been sharing about feeling unsafe around men. So as far as the book’s theme is concerned, I think that as we’re still in a situation where women are blamed and held responsible for their now safety, perhaps a message that hits you over the head is what’s needed right now.
I liked the main character of Celeste. She is the kind of girl who refuses to accept the way things are, though she seems like she’s fully indoctrinated into the system at the beginning of the book, we soon see her more rebellious side. I didn’t like her brother, Miles, very much though. He’s a bit self-righteous and no different (in my opinion) to any of the other men in the book. To him, he has a right to see Celeste’s markings, and a right to women’s’ bodies in general. It’s hard to talk about without spoilers, but I didn’t like him at all.
There were moments when the worldbuilding didn’t make sense. But these were rare. I think in trying to explain everything, Walters sometimes overexplained. I think her idea of markings on women’s’ bodies, and the way men covet them, was a really good way of conveying her message. I understood it to be a metaphor for reproduction. Women hold in their bodies the possibility of life, and men don’t. Men want to possess women because they want to own our possibilities and claim them for their own. That’s just my interpretation.
One irritation I have since reading it is that the blurb misleads a little. Miles isn’t the only one who can read Celeste’s marks. She can read her own marks, as can the other girls. Miles isn’t actually a proper interpreter, he just has an obsession with it. I do wish publishers would make their blurbs accurate.
Overall, I think Body of Stars is an enjoyable book that conveys an important message. It’s a really interesting concept, and I enjoyed reading it.