Star Maps by J.S. Frankel
Publisher: Lazy Day Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (120 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe
Seeing is believing, and when Carl Thornton, seventeen-year-old UFO enthusiast and high school nerd, sees a double of his homeroom teacher, he knows that something is not quite right.
Then again, he lives in Rachel, Nevada, the area known as ‘UFO Central’. Formerly from Chicago, he came to live with his alcoholic uncle after the untimely death of his parents. His fondest wish is to gaze at the stars and see a UFO.
Wish granted on both counts, as he meets Grace Paxton, a high school junior and a recent transfer student. Through a series of circumstances, he discovers that Grace is a shape-shifting alien, a Theriantan, and once he’s with her and her people, he learns the real reason for Area 51, the secrets it holds… and the danger that lurks beyond.
Would you recognize an alien if you saw one?
I liked Carl immediately. His character development was so well done that at times I actually felt as if I were eavesdropping on his thoughts instead of reading a story. It was especially interesting to see how this character’s personality revealed itself in the way he spoke. Carl’s dialogue was so tuned into his unique set of quirks and habits that it barely took me any time at all to recognize when he was speaking before the narrator could even have a chance to confirm it.
It would have been helpful to have more time for the subplots to play out. There were a lot of different things happening simultaneously, and I was interested in seeing what happened with all of them. This could have easily been expanded into something full-length. Given the subject matter and how close it was to a manuscript of that size already, I think it would have been even better if it had had that extra room to grow. This tale would have easily earned a much higher rating from me if the plot had been able to fully explore some of the things it hinted at but was never quite able to dive into due to its length.
The romantic subplot was smoothly woven into the main storyline. The characters involved in it were such a good match that I really hoped they’d end up together. It was also fun to see how their attraction to each other revealed sides of their personalities to the audience that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to experience.
Star Maps is the best book of Mr. Frankel’s that I’ve read so far. I’d recommend it to longterm and brand new fans of this author alike!