Title: Dark Star
Author: Bethany Frenette
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Release Date: October 23rd, 2012
I think I should start out by saying that, contrary to what you might read, Dark Star is not a superhero novel. I'll say it again: Dark Star is not a superhero novel. At least, not the usual type. When I think superheroes, I tend to think of a scene similar to The Avengers with a bunch of kick-butt people in colorful suits battling evil with their epic skills. Yeah, that scene from The Avengers? It's not there in Dark Star. In actuality, Dark Star is a novel about a teenage girl who discovers that her world is not quite what she thinks it is. Sounds familiar? It is. Yet, there are a few plot twists in this story that manage to make it shine just a tad bit despite its formulaic-ness.
Audrey has known she was special ever since she was the little girl. It's hard not to, really, when you're the daughter of Morning Star, the superhero vigilante who saves the city by night and saves her one-mom household by day. But, in addition to that, Audrey has always had her Knowing - abilities that enable her to Know what lies in the past and future and conduct tarot card readings with expertise. (In other words, she's a psychic...more or less.) So, when girls mysteriously begin to disappear in her small town, only to be found dead a few days later with their ankles slashed, she doesn't just know something is wrong, she Knows something is wrong. When Tink, Audrey's best friend, nearly gets kidnapped herself, Audrey takes it upon herself to find out once and for all just what is happening, why her mother isn't putting a stop to it, and just who - or what - she really is.
Yeah, not many superheroes in that synopsis, I know. I actually think I would have enjoyed this novel a lot more if I wasn't expecting it to be a Marvel-comic-book-turned-YA-adventure, so perhaps other readers can avoid the disappointment I felt when I first cracked open the spine of this novel. That being said, Dark Star still has a lot going for it. For one, it was a relatively engaging read and while I thought the world-building came in just a tad bit too late, I really enjoyed Frenette's take on demon lore and the manner in which she explained her world. Furthermore, I think the characters she created were remarkably interesting and I truly loved the lack of a missing-parent syndrome. Morning Star, Audrey's mother, was very much apart of her life and I was thrilled to see that and experience their mother-daughter relationship. In addition, I really have to give Frenette props for the unexpected plot twist at the end. It was something I definitely wasn't expecting and I loved it.
Nevertheless, despite its many positive aspects, Dark Star had a few qualities that were good, but could have been better. For one, the romance. Leon, Morning Star's sidekick and, as we later find out, Audrey's romantic interest, is one hell of a guy. Not only is he remarkably different from most male protagonists, he is kind, intelligent, kick-butt, and his relationship with Audrey is a firm friendship filled with witty banter. While I loved it, and him, to pieces, I was surprised when their friendship quite unexpectedly turned to romance during the last couple of pages of this story. Up until that point, I had loved the fact that Dark Star had been devoid of romance - no he-stared-into-my-eyes, no he-held-onto-my-hand-for-longer-than-was-strictly-necessary, nothing. Zip, zilch, zero. It was refreshing and put a well-deserved amount of focus onto the scintillating plot, but all that changed suddenly. I was hoping that their road to a love story would be a little more well-developed, especially as I didn't sense any romantic intentions from Leon's side, so I'm holding out for an explanation in the sequel as well as more growth to both their characters.
In addition to my qualm with the romance, I found I was a tad bit let down by the characters. I loved the cast of secondary characters that graced this novel, from Audrey's best friends Tink and Gideon to her cousins, grandparents, math teacher, and friendly-neighborhood-cop. Yet, I failed to feel a true connection with any of them. Yes, I liked seeing them interact and found them to be interesting and original as they failed to mold into stereotypical roles, but Frenette failed to make me really care, not only for her secondary characters, but for Audrey as well! While I admired Audrey's stubbornness, determination, and her nature in general, I didn't truly feel for her and by the end of this novel, I was left feeling as if I had only gotten a glimpse into her life opposed to a full-fledged novel. I am hoping that this is a simple debutante's error as I have seen more than one author develop their protagonist in later novels as they know their story is a series, but I was still a tad bit disappointed.
Overall, I would not say that Dark Star, is, by any means, a bad read. I found myself to be disappointed with it as it didn't contain the superhero awesomeness it promised and its story was relatively formulaic. However, it was still enjoyable and I'm holding out for a better sequel than debut. Dark Star is the type of novel that I know for a fact a lot of reviewers will gush over, but I'm just not one of them. It reminded me a little too much of City of Bones in some ways, except with less humor, hot guys, kick-ass characters, action, and a different take on demon lore. So, while I have to admit that I liked Clare's take on this paranormal creature much better, Dark Star was still a fascinating mystery to read and I'll be keeping my eye out for the sequel when it releases.