Review: A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

I don't read MG nearly as often as I'd like, but when I do, I'd want it all to be something like this, a soft, sweet, comforting, autumnal but also innovative story about what it's like to be a stranger in a new place and try to face it by oneself. This was one that I saw on PaperFury, and while I don't generally take her recs, this one looked AMAZING, and I was right, it absolutely was. :)

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing's entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.

A Glasshouse of Stars is based on the real childhood experiences of the author, brushed with a light touch of magic realism.

Worldbuilding/Writing Style
The worldbuilding (and writing style) we delightfully non-specific--it's unclear exactly what country it's set in, or what countries the characters are from, making prejudice and stereotyping on the part of the reader a lot harder, which I think is quite smart. 

The whole thing is written in the second person, which was REALLY interesting--I think it's the only full-length book I've ever read in second person, and it definitely drew me in...but I was also left with a clear picture of the MC, Meixing, even so.

The writing style itself was magical, contemplative, and very beautiful. The way the author describes things is unique, and "slow and soft", is the best way I can describe it. 

The setting is in the "New Country", and there are scenes at school, but most of it revolves around Meixing's new house, Big Scary, which seems alive. It grows and shrinks with her, tries to comfort her, and she can almost communicate it. In the backyard, there's a magic greenhouse/glasshouse, in which are orange trees, as well as magic (healing) seeds that can be planted. It's all described really beautifully, in a way that blurs reality vs. not. I'm not entirely sure what actually is true...but I liked it. I don't usually like ambiguity of that sort, but here I did. Kudos to Marr!

The plot mostly revolves around Meixing and her family trying to settle into a new community, and the challenges that come with that. It was low-key, with a lot of the focus on friendships and the setting, and I liked that.

Meixing, our MC, is so lovable. She's trying to do well, be a good girl for her family, but she's afraid, she doesn't talk at school, and everything is new and scary. The thing that keeps her going is the glasshouse. 

Kevin and Josh are such a good pair as her friends. I love their friendship, and the way they don't give up on each other. <3

Their teacher (I'm forgetting her name) is lowkey the best, and I loved her.

Also, Ailing, aka Aunty Ailing. She was...perfect. In the right place at the right time. Lovely. 

None! (It's MG)

Racism (incl. violence) (the racist characters are clearly in the wrong), birth (non-graphic), death (non-graphic)

Overall Rating
I would definitely give this one four stars!

What are some of your favorite MG books? Autumnal books? Have you ever read anything written in the second person?


Post a Comment

Hi! I'm so glad you are here and taking the time to comment. I love all comments, even ones on old posts! I just ask that you are respectful and keep the comments section clean. Thank you!