Julie Nolan doesn’t know what’s wrong with her mom. Lately she’s found her at the graveyard, lying in open graves. The only way Julie’s mom can explain her bizarre behaviour is to say, “My heart is missing.”
As her mom becomes more and more distant and zombie-like, Julie reluctantly begins to mother her mom and take on more household duties. Meanwhile, her best friend (and secret crush) Lorelei is pulling away just when Julie needs her most – leaving Julie to turn to Henry, Lorelai’s ex, for support. When her jealousy toward Henry turns into the beginnings of a romance, Julie must face her burgeoning bisexuality.
In her debut novel, Star Spider effectively manages to weave themes of mental health and sexuality in. She uses nostalgic chapter openers to reflect on Julie’s relationship with her mother, and shows readers the girl’s fear of responsibility early on. This has a certain Fun Home vibe – Spider is able to capture Alison Bechdel’s style of dissecting childhood relationships with parents, while also exploring sexuality.
Spider’s characterizations are powerful. And even though Lorelai is written as a clichéd party-girl-next-door stereotype, she remains an ideal first love for Julie. Spider creates characters who are quirky and relatable ad who engage in dynamic relationships. Palpable tension drives Julie’s growth.
Julie’s internal struggle with bisexuality combined with her devotion to an emotionally incapacitated mother make for a loaded novel – one that asks some important questions.