Even though I love this cover, my expectations going into this were pretty low. I haven't seen any reviews for it, but I've heard from people who read reviews that they've seen less than encouraging ones. As such, I adjusted my hopes down a bit and set off. Actually, I ended up really enjoying Dark Star. Is it perfect? No. Is it a fun? Heck yes!
The very best part of Dark Star is the characterization. Recently, though I've been on a really good reading streak, I feel like most of my star deductions have been for characters that didn't feel real to me or that I simply could not connect with, so I really needed this character-driven read. Audrey has a huge personality, funny and clever and a little bit rebellious. I loved her voice so much that the writing style, which leans a bit more to the choppy fragments style than I generally care for, didn't bother me much.
Not only is Audrey awesome, her friends are great too. She has two best friends, Gabriel and Tink. Gabriel is the only one who has been trusted with her mother's secret (that she's the superhero Morning Star, though she prefers to be called a Guardian, and fights bad guys with her younger partner Leon). Audrey trusts Gabriel implicitly, the only secrets she keeps from him being ones she's not allowed to tell. Tink, who I totally pictured as the character of the same name from The Guild, is outgoing and tiny and a little bit terrifying. They have a real bond and I love to see that in novels.
Perhaps even more rare, Audrey has a loving, protective, approachable, attentive mother. Can such a thing truly exist in YA? Apparently so! Audrey's mother, Lucy, does go out all night to fight crime, but she's in no way an absentee mom. She manages to spend a lot of time with her daughter. While definitely not an overprotective hardass, Lucy does keep informed of her daughter's whereabouts and try to keep Audrey safe, except for that one flashback where Lucy totally battles this demon preggers. Plus, they totally have the mother-daughter banter down. Of course, to fulfill the YA parental drama, her father's out of the picture, but I was still so glad to have a loving family dynamic in this book.
The romance, which does exist, satisfied, even if it was totally predictable. Of course, if a romance has to be predictable, I'm not going to complain too much when it's my favorite of the cliched romance patterns, which this happens to be. Also, the best part is that the romance totally isn't the focus. It's there and believable and has chemistry, but flirting is minimal and Audrey doesn't spend the whole book mooning over boys.
The first half of the book, had it continued in that vein, might even have gotten four stars from me for the sheer fun of it and the awesome characters. However, the book took a bit of a turn, and, though I didn't hate it, I would have preferred for the book not to have a paranormal twist. If you don't want to know what the twist is, skip to the last paragraph now.
In true YA fashion, it turns out that mom is not in fact a superhero; she fights demons. Basically, the book takes this whole twist to the paranormal when I really just wanted to read a fantasy novel where some people have a little bit of extra power for who cares why and do some vigilante justice, okay? Mom has super strength, Leon can teleport, and Audrey Knows things, or, in otherwords, is a little bit psychic. That was all awesome and I had accepted it and then it was all because of paranormal things, which wasn't bad, but I've had enough of that and was so excited for something a little different.
The bigger problem with the paranormal plotline was that it was weird and a little haphazard at the end. Like, the final confrontation was so abrupt. There's this small battle and it's dramatic, but then instead of the BIG crazy showdown, it just sort of ends. I want my epic battle of powers and superheroes, dang it! Also, the book didn't really feel wrapped up plot-wise at the end. I haven't heard rumors of a sequel, so, if this it, poorly done on that.
But, you know what? I still had so much fun reading this that I'm giving it a bonus .5 for keeping me engaged in the story. Of course, now I really want to reread After the Golden Age, which is about a woman who's the daughter of superheroes that are actually just superheroes and so, so good.