"The Weight of the Stars" Is a Gorgeous Novel about New Possibilities

After an accident brings them together, Ryann Bird finds herself keeping track of space messages for her classmate Alexandria.

Although they have a frosty start, the two eventually bond over their status as misfits and an appreciation of outer space. As Ryann begins to help Alexandria learn more about her astronaut mother and her one-way space mission, their tentative friendship slowly blooms into something more.

One of the first things that drew me to this book was its very short chapters. Each of them has its own title and is only a few pages long, reminding me of those brief short fiction stories known as flash fiction. This resulted in a nice, steady pace for the storyline that urges the reader to keep reading without making them feel bogged down by page length. It was an unexpected yet relaxing reading format.

In addition to the leisurely pace of the chapters, the prose itself is great to read. It is lyrical, thoughtful, and sometimes even humorous. It gives almost every character their own unique voice that makes their personalities palpable. An example of this is the following exchange between Ryann, Alexandria, and one of Ryann’s friends, Shannon:

“What a bitch,” Shannon seethed. “They tell us not to judge a book by its cover, but then, like, they say mean things like that.”

“You have to learn to not care, you know?” Alexandria replied.

“Or at least be able to defend yourself well,” Ryann mumbled.

Speaking of the characters, they are wonderful to get to know. While there are too many to list them all, personal favorites included Ryann, James, Alexandria, Ahmed, and Shannon. Ryann is a tall butch Black girl who is a tough yet loving mother hen to her found family of misfit friends and to her younger brother, James, and his baby, Charlie. James became mute after the death of his and Ryann’s parents. He fiercely loves Ryann and Charlie. Alexandria is a soft butch mixed-raced Black girl whose coldness protects a warm heart. Ahmed has beautiful polyamorous parents and is a loyal friend. Shannon is popular yet kind and fun, a refreshing deviation from the usual popular girl trope.

Bonding the characters, especially Alexandria and Ryann, together is the topic of outer space and the stars. Even for someone uninterested or unfamiliar with space facts, the information is presented in a way that is easy to understand and thoughtful. One part of the book that is especially notable is the depiction of how Ryann and Alexandria’s parents influenced their own outer space goals and appreciation. It is truly touching to see both young girls discuss and work toward their hopes and dreams under the stars.

Together, the writing format, prose, and the characters work to tell a emotionally resonating story about new chances and the burdens we all carry. There is also a slow-burn romance that is pleasant to watch unfold as Alexandria and Ryann grow closer. Sometimes, the baggage we carry can be too much to handle alone, especially if that baggage is unwillingly given to you. K. Ancrum’s The Weight of the Starstells us that others can help you carry that weight and that sometimes it’s okay to put yourself first.

A minor flaw of the book involves some of the characters. While the huge cast of characters made for engaging reading, it also made it a little confusing at times. It can be easy to mix up some of the characters, and I did this myself with it came to Ryan’s friends Blake and Tomas, as well as the adult characters of Alex’s dad Raleigh and the CEO Roland. This wasn’t too bothersome, but Blake and Tomas did feel like the same person sometimes, since their character dialogues felt similar.

All in all, this book is a gorgeous novel about new possibilities, love, and family. Great pacing, characters, and prose, along with a love of outer space, make this a novel worth reading. If you’re looking for a new contemporary coming-of-age story and/or romance, prepare to be dazzled and heartbroken all at once.

The Afro YA promotes black young adult authors and YA books with black characters, especially those that influence Pennington, an aspiring YA author who believes that black YA readers need diverse books, creators, and stories so that they don’t have to search for their experiences like she did.

Latonya Pennington is a poet and freelance pop culture critic. Their freelance work can also be found at PRIDE, Wear Your Voice magazine, and Black Sci-fi. As a poet, they have been published in Fiyah Lit magazine, Scribes of Nyota, and Argot magazine among others.

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