See All The Stars by Kit Frick

If you’re a reader, it’s easy to love books— to love the pages of every story you pick up. Almost every novel I’ve shared here comes from my love of a story well told. The books I’ve reviewed have taught me about the craft of writing and challenged me to strengthen my toolbox, so my own stories don’t end up in the circular file. But to say I loved See All The Stars by Kit Frick is an understatement. Having finished this extraordinary debut novel only 30 minutes ago, I am still awestruck.

The ending— as inevitable as it is in hindsight— ripped through my heart. My husband asked why I was crying. This story, I said. Sad? Yes, and more. It’s the way the inevitable pain of the events unfolded. How the storytelling geared me up for the worst while coaxing me into a false sense that the truth could never end as horrible as it turned out. How was that possible? The layers of the past, present, the lies and truth are so deftly woven, even if I dissect the every page, I fear I’ll never be able to figure out how Kit Frick delivered the goods. And perhaps, it’s best not to try. Sometimes I think a story so well told needs not to be analyzed, but absorbed viscerally. Let the mystery of how sink deep into the dark of my imagination until the day my subconscious figures out how to let me use it in the light of day.

Likability— a term pounded upon by reviewers, agents and critique partners and dreaded by writers. What does it mean? I recently tuned into Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass on writing. Here’s what she has to say:

Likability is a factor when you’re choosing a roommate, but not a factor when you’re creating a living character.

I agree. And after reading See All The Stars, I agree even more because the most unlikable character in the novel, the antagonist, Ret, is one of the reasons I was riveted to every page of the book. Ret. How I hated her. From the moment I met her, I knew she was trouble, not to be trusted. She gave me the creeps. For me, she was creepier than Hannibal Lecter. Oh, she was flesh and blood and vulnerable, and I understood why the protagonist, Ellory and the other girls, Bex and Jenni were drawn to her. But even in those moments where the girls were bonding in the way only teenagers do, I kept wanting to hold up bunches of garlic and yell, “Run, run, Ret is evil. Evil. This will not end well for anyone.”

Unveiling the story. This morning before finishing See All The Stars, I read, “Wait. What?” by Dave King on Writer Unboxed. It’s an insightful post dealing with ambiguity, about when to hold back the facts and when to let the reader muse over the missing story pieces. King says:

It’s often possible to use ambiguity as a source of tension throughout an entire novel.

And Kit Frick’s debut is a shining example of how it’s done. She unpacks the truth like a birthday girl who doesn’t want to rip even a smidge of the wrapping paper that holds her gift. I wanted the unvarnished truth to come faster, but the way it dripped in front of me was the exact torture I needed to stay hooked. Frick revealed the exact amount of puzzle pieces all along the way for me to run scenarios of the ending in my head, and over and over again, the next truth she dropped obliterated my certainty— until wham— I was blindsided and the world of the characters crashed. Their lives forever transformed. And mine as well.

Before the end of 2018, read See All The StarsYour book loving self will thank you.