Let me begin by saying that it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that really emotionally sucker-punches me (in a good way). And it’s been an even longer time since that book has been aimed at teenagers.
But this is that book.
Kim Culbertson’s Catch a Falling Star is a must-read for everyone, but especially for any girl in a small town. Because this is all about the dreams we make when we live in tight-knit communities.
I was reading this in public and found myself trying desperately not to laugh (barely succeeded) and even more desperately not to cry (completely unsuccessful at about three points, one of which was the last page).
So here’s the basic gist: Carter Moon (budding astrologer) is happy in Little, CA where she works at the family cafe, hangs out with her friends, and teaches dance to senior citizens. But then a film crew invades Little to film a Christmas movie and the star is none other than Hollywood heartthrob Adam Jakes. Adam needs some good PR, and hiring Carter to pretend to be his girlfriend seems like the best solution to both their problems: he’s seen with a sweet small-town girl and she gets a healthy check to help out her family. But what happens when Carter realizes there’s more to Adam than the tabloids say, and that there might even be more to her than she knows?
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that this sounds like a pretty normal teen romance plot. And, if we’re looking at the very basic structure of “girl meets boy, romance and misunderstandings ensue,” then you’d be right. But there’s so much more to this than what I’ve seen recently in teen romances.
For starters, there’s not really a love triangle! I mean, there are elements of it (Adam, of course, has a past with some other superstars), but there’s no teen-angst-“Does he love me or do I love him or am I really in love with my best friend of sixteen years who I haven’t noticed until this new guy showed up?” triangle. And that makes such a huge (and welcome) difference.
Another thing to love: Carter’s fantastically real. All the characters are. And maybe it’s because I’m another small town girl, but it seems to me that everybody knows someone who’s like one of Little’s locals. But I especially found myself nodding along with what Carter says and feels – she’s a normal teenager who’s been thrust into a crazy situation. And there’s also a fantastic side story with her family that just works.
And here’s what I think is the real kicker: this is a smart book. These people aren’t caricatures or stereotypes – they have depth and layers and flaws. There are allusions to Tolkien. There are moments that make you question how you see Hollywood and the tabloids. And what I love most of all is that, in this smart book where our teenagers aren’t consumed with the need to be prom queen and instead are trying to figure out (as almost all real teens do) their next steps in life, you realize just how human everyone is. Celebrities and small-town high schoolers, big brothers and Hollywood agents – we all have dreams, and we all need help sometime.
So this is why you need to read this book: because for all its sweetness and fluffy romantic moments (which would be perfect in a movie… hint hint…), the heart of Catch a Falling Star is in its beautiful moments of humanity. It may be classified as a teen romance, but everyone should read it, if only to remind us that every once in a while, we all need to take a moment to look at the stars.