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Life History of A Star

Life History of A Star

4.6 12
by Kelly Easton

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Kristin Folger feels like she's on another planet. Her body keeps changing shape. Her mother wants her to dress like a girl. Her best friend's dating a weirdo. And there's a ghost in the attic that no one wants to talk about.
In the era of Watergate, the Vietnam War, and David Bowie, fourteen-year-old Kristin navigates the external and


Kristin Folger feels like she's on another planet. Her body keeps changing shape. Her mother wants her to dress like a girl. Her best friend's dating a weirdo. And there's a ghost in the attic that no one wants to talk about.
In the era of Watergate, the Vietnam War, and David Bowie, fourteen-year-old Kristin navigates the external and internal changes that come at top speed. The Life History of a Star is Kristin's sometimes comical, sometimes cynical, always thoughtful diary about what her life has been like since the ghost arrived. It takes a lot of time and an unforgettable family therapy session for Kristin to begin to learn who the ghost was — and who he still is. And where on earth she fits in.
Caught up in the politics of her time and in the middle of a family who doesn't always understand her, Kristin makes a memorable journey through the byways of adolescence — all the way to the stars and back again.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Annette Curtis Klause author of Blood and Chocolate and The Silver Kiss I really enjoyed The Life History of a Star. I gobbled it down! I recognize myself in Kristin Folger and I recognize all these kids; I knew them in high school. This is a compelling fragile mix of funny and hurt — a powerful portrayal of loss, and of a family in grieving, from the point of view of a sharp-witted teenaged girl, which creates a humorous, yet touching, and altogether real narrative. Tension and mystery are maintained in the midst of the description of everyday life, and the audience can laugh yet also read between the lines and sense the scary depths under the surface. I'll look forward to reading more by Kelly Easton.

Ellen Wittlinger author of Hard Love, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and winner of the Lambda Literary Award Easton is an irreverent and irresistible new voice in YA fiction. She balances wry sarcasm and hilarious observation with a story of family tragedy — without once losing her equilibrium. What a fabulous character Kristin Folger is, so raw and so real.

Cynthia D. Grant winner of the PEN/Norma Klein Award and author of Mary Wolf and The White Horse Fresh, funny, and touching, Kelly Easton's The Life History of a Star is as appealing as its heroine.

Publishers Weekly
"Watergate and Patty Hearst help form the 1973-1974 backdrop to this arresting first novel, told through journal entries," said PW. "Easton is ambitious in her combination of the witty and the tragic, and the authenticity of her protagonist is never in doubt." Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Watergate and Patty Hearst help form the 1973-1974 backdrop to this arresting first novel, told through journal entries. Kristin Folger's typical coming-of-age crises (beginning menstruation, ambivalence about her awakening sexuality) are overshadowed by the "ghost" in her attic and its pervasive influence on her family's life. A profusion of period details (references to TV shows, bands, products) and sarcastic observations about her parents' shortcomings and school get the story off to a slightly choppy start. But it doesn't take long for the 14-year-old to find her voice she reports psychologically rich dreams, recapitulates her revealing dialogues with friends and longs for escape (at one point she even sends for a brochure from a ritzy Swiss boarding school). At times, the novel is genuinely funny, perhaps all the more so because of its wrenching contrasts. A quarter of the way through, the "ghost" is revealed as Kristin's beloved older brother, David, destroyed by the Vietnam War. David's condition is never spelled out; it is enough to see its effects on the family. Easton is ambitious in her combination of the witty and the tragic, and the authenticity of her protagonist is never in doubt. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Here is another journal/diary book�but one that works. Fourteen-year-old Kristin favors us with a year-and-a-half of her life in 1973-74. Starting with the usual adolescent gripes, Kristin as narrator soon pulls us into her world of school frustrations, friends experimenting with hormonal urges, and dysfunctional families. Slowly the reason for the dysfunction of her own family appears�it's the ghost in the attic. The ghost becomes Kristin's oldest brother David, home from Vietnam in partial body only. Kristin's story begins to merge with David's until the meaning of the title finally becomes clear. This is Kelly Easton's first novel and it is good piece of writing, getting close not only to her teenage character, but also to the concerns and ambience of the 1970s. 2001, Margaret K. McElderry, $16.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
Fourteen-year-old Kristin experiences in 1973 many adolescent aggravations that are still typical today. Her parents are not getting along. Her best friend has started dating a loser. Her best guy friend has started drooling over Kristin's uncontrollable curves. Her story is different, however, because at her house, there is a ghost living upstairs. Told through Kirstin's journal entries, the story offers casual mention of the ghost, just enough to send a jolt of alarm at this sudden supernatural revelation. Gradually it becomes clear that the "ghost" is Kristin's beloved older brother, David, shattered physically and mentally by his Vietnam War experience. Kristin's life has grown increasingly contorted as she emphatically denies David's broken existence. David had explained to her once about the life span of a star, and she recalls this metaphor repeatedly in her search for her brother's bright essence, now hidden behind his ghost-like black stare. Easton portrays Kristin as smart and sassy while allowing the reader to understand how truly hurt and alone she feels. Despite the intensity of Kristin's life, her journal entries sparkle with humor. Kristin moodily contemplates becoming a nun, telephoning the Mother Superior, who is happy to discuss the matter, but "When I asked if I'd have to attend Mass since I'm an atheist, she immediately lost interest." Recommend this great book to girls who enjoy the diary format, popularized by such series as California Diaries andReal Teens. It could also find a place on historical fiction or war-related booklists. Easton's debut novel is wise, witty, and welcome in any young adult collection. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marredonly by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, McElderry/S & S, 208p, Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Diane Masla SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Life is difficult for 14-year-old Kristin Folger. Through her journal entries over the course of a year, it becomes clear that the "ghost" who haunts her attic is her beloved older brother David, who has returned from the Vietnam War a shattered person. She is also troubled by changes taking place in her own world-her best friend has become boy crazy, her closest male friend is putting the moves on her, and her parents are separating. The format makes this novel easy to read, and it certainly allows readers to get to know Kristin, who comes through as a very real teen. However, this format proves ineffective at letting readers see the other figures in her life as real people, and she is a harsh critic of those around her. Her mother seems to have no redeeming qualities throughout most of the book; a revelation by Kristin before David's death shows that her writings haven't told the whole story of this strong but troubled woman. Also, the narrative sometimes heads in too many directions. At the end, Kristin learns that "The atoms that make up the earth are formed inside of stars. Nothing really dies. Everything is transformed." As everything in her life changes, so does she; this is natural, inevitable, and life-giving. This is an idea that many young women will be able to appreciate. The 1970s backdrop, coupled with a strong-willed character facing real-life changes, will help this story find an audience with teens who face many of the same struggles today. Despite some flaws, this novel should be well received.- Toni D. Moore, Simon Kenton High School, Independence, KY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Why can't changes ever be good?" As recorded in the pages of her diary, a 14-year-old's life takes on a decidedly soapy cast in this uneven debut. Kristin frets about the sudden, late development of her body, and watches her friends trying to grow up too fast: meanwhile, her beloved older brother David, mangled in the Vietnam War, lies in the attic, severely depressed and dying slowly. David's constant, haunting presence (Kristin usually refers to him as "the ghost") and family money problems has her parents' marriage on the rocks. To top it all off, she has a bad case of adolescentitis, manifested as an adversarial relationship with her mother and a great fondness for words like "gross" and "pathetic." Happily, Kristin's mordant sense of humor, plus a serious search for meaning in life that takes her from Camus and Simone de Beauvoir to the confessional (where she receives not platitudes but refreshingly unconventional comments from the priest) and a Unitarian church, save this from turning into another whiny teenage diatribe. Easton delivers some messages-teenage sex, as described by Kristin's friends, comes across as uncomfortable and a bit silly-but neither they, nor David's eventual death, will make readers feel sandbagged. Try this on fans of Naylor's "Alice" books, or Judy Blume's novels for tweens. (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

from Part 2

September 19

Bobby has become Mom's favorite. When I went downstairs, he was sitting at the table playing cards with her. She was gabbing about her childhood and how popular she was with boys and he was asking her questions about herself, just to be nice. "Wanna join our game, Kristin?" he asked.

"Nah," I said.

"She's too hoity-toity." Mom had to get her nasty two cents in.

God, I wish I lived somewhere else, someplace cold and wintery. Alaska? Sweden? I'd look for cracks in the ice and follow them deeper and deeper into the wild. I'd find the wolves and the coyotes and live with them.

September 20

Simon wants us to be each other's first sexual experiment. His rationale for this is that we don't have religious guilt about sex and that our minds match. He also thinks that we're good enough friends not to have this destroy our friendship. The whole idea is confusing, but I told him I'd think about it. As if I had said yes, he produced a Trojan rubber from his pocket — something I've seen in Bobby's room! If I'm gonna be a smoldering fire, I'll need someone with a little more finesse. But then again, it would be something. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself just to feel something. This is a dead-end town — no nature (with the exception of the mountains, which don't count since they're covered in smog); no rocks or sea, hardly any old houses; just mini-malls, fast-food restaurants, apartment buildings, condos, stucco, and smog.

September 21

It's so cool that Billie Jean King whipped Bobby Riggs at tennis. He's such a male chauvinist. Women are finally taking what they deserve. I called Simon to gloat, but he was at a seminar for "young artists." It's such a drag having a rich friend.

P.S. It's hard to decide who's grosser: Nixon or his V.P., Agnew.

September 23

Grandma has a cold. Why the hell do I bother to visit her? Last night, she raked Mom over the coals while she rubbed Vicks VapoRub over her chest. She coughed and sneezed her way down memory lane:

GRANDMA: There was an apartment in Detroit. This was before Detroit turned into the hellhole it is now. This was when people really loved and needed American cars. Then, Detroit was the place to be, I'm telling you, the place to be in the U.S.A. Morton and I'd walk around that city and say "American on wheels" to anyone who would listen. Isn't that hilarious? And Morton would pick flowers from my neighbor's window box and give them to me. He'd light me a cigarette from his cigarette like in that Bette Davis movie. We listened to the radio and danced. On our wedding night we were in a dance marathon; we were more interested in dancing than even going to bed, if you know what I mean. (long tragic pause) That was before your mother was born. Once your mother was born, Morton just wanted to go out by himself all the time.

Later: The ghost is howling like a coyote. Bobby wasn't home yet so I got into his bed. When I woke up, he was tiptoeing around.

BOBBY: It's okay. Go back to sleep. I'll sleep on the couch.

ME: What did you do tonight?

BOBBY: Just hung around Michelle's trailer. We were going to drive to the beach or something, but her aunt wanted her to stick around.

ME: What did you talk about?

BOBBY: I don't know. About what we're going to do when we graduate. About the church.

ME: Do you love Michelle?

BOBBY: Sure.

ME: Why?

BOBBY: It's easy to love Michelle. She's sweet and she's pretty. It's easy to love people in general.

ME: I think it's hard to love people. It's not that I don't want to. It's like I have...what's that thing when you have something in your eye that blocks your vision?

BOBBY: An astigmatism?

ME: Yeah, I have an astigmatism on my feelings.

BOBBY: Nah, you're just having a tough time these days. Do you want to watch TV?

ME: Okay. Bobby, do you love the ghost? (He had to think about that for a while.)

BOBBY: I love him...because he's David. And...I hate him because he's not David. I can't help wondering what would have happened if I were just a few years older, if both of us...you know? (I shook my head.) David was the oldest and he always seemed smarter and bigger and better at everything than me. He got most of the attention, especially from Mom. But then, he had to go to war because he was the oldest...and that makes me feel, I don't know...guilty.

ME: I'm sorry, Bobby.

BOBBY: It's okay.

ME: Like the saying goes, "I didn't ask to be born."

BOBBY: Right.

ME: Or when.

September 24

I biked to the library, which is in the nice, older part of town. It's a good place to go when I need to escape. The librarian there, Miss Dodge, is pretty sweet; I've known her since I was about two. "Do you have something sophisticated for me to read?" I asked her, feeling dumb. She didn't grin at me like most adults do. "I just read a good piece in this magazine. It's on conspiracy theories surrounding Martin Luther King's assassination," she said. It was a pretty interesting article, but what got me really excited were the ads in the back of the magazine: L'École Gallavier. SWISS BOARDING SCHOOL! The answer to all my problems. I copied down the address and, when I got home, wrote away for a brochure. I can't wait.

September 26

Something I've managed to avoid so far. I've been assigned to write a paper about the Vietnam War. It's bad enough that I have to listen to teachers going on and on about it as if there is nothing else that has ever happened in history.

September 27

Paper not started. If I don't write the thing I'll probably get an F, and down the drain with the honors program.

September 28

O'Neil was out sick, so I had to talk to Armstrong. "This is high school. We do our assignments. Really, history is not so bad," he says.

I can still read those damn books whether I'm in honors or not.

September 29

Brainstorming. Brain. Storming.

October 1

Notes for Vietnam paper:

THE BAD WAR, by Kristin Folger

There is no such thing as a good war, but some wars are worse than others. Such is the case with Vietnam.

Too stiff.

FASCISM, by Kristin Folger

The history of Vietnam is that many different forces have tried to govern it and the Vietnamese fought back. Ho Chi Minh was supposed to be a hero. But he wasn't. America got involved. President Kennedy tried to end the war, but then he was assassinated. Johnson made matters worse.

Too scattered.

October 2

HOW IT STARTED, by Kristin Folger

The French were wrong then Geneva was wrong Communism wrong capitalism wrong Vietcong wrong Eisenhower Kennedy Johnson Nixon you name it — the betrayed become the betrayers, the savior turns with a machine gun to the crowd.

* * *

This is how it happens: The young boy is taken from his home — he is bright, athletic, funny, a star. The town glories in his perfections: track star, wrestling star, star scholar.

But, he is still a child.

This is how it happens: The young boy is green as jade. He smiles, teeth bleached white from the sun, from Crest and Colgate and American dreams.

His country says war, says kill, says die, says don't question authority.

At first he doesn't mind. The uniform is shiny. Aren't American soldiers heroes? He's always thought they were. Inside, he pretends that he's someone else: John Wayne, Clark Gable. Outside, he excels, the way he always has. He trains to say war, say kill, say die. He flies to a land farther than he can imagine. He learns to be a soldier, to understand the terrain. He communes with nature. The snakes and lizards. The insects.

Part of him has gone away. The other part pretends he is in one of those movies he watched as a boy — The Guns of Navarone, The Shores of Iwo Jima, where the enemy is clear and ugly and evil. The enemy has a wicked face and a long skinny mustache. The enemy is not a woman farmer, a girl, a crying child, a scared teenager, a village.

This is the history of colonial rule. The changing of one land one body for another, one leg one arm one soul. And the whales travel miles to Baja, the turtles leave their eggs on the beach. And Simon, don't romanticize Ho Chi Minh or Marx or the maniac Stalin or Lenin or anyone or me. Don't even romanticize the whales, because they don't have difficult choices to make; they move on instinct. And the turtles leave their eggs on the beach to hatch alone. They don't even stick around to help their babies make it to the sea.

October 3

Dear Miss Faulkner: This is a late paper. After you read it, you may understand why. I can't write about the American participation in the Vietnam War without thinking of my brother David. Before he went to war, he was pretty famous at this school. He was a track star, wrestling champ, valedictorian. David was going to be a doctor or an astronomer.

Did I tell you that David knew the name of every planet, every constellation? We walked a lot at night and he introduced me to the stars. He taught me to see the way light falls on the trees, how to observe the changing directions of the wind, how to know when the rain would come days before it came. We talked about God. He believed in God, but he said it was okay if I didn't. He wanted people to think that things came easy for him. But they didn't. He would stay up nights working on his wrestling moves or his Spanish or his debate speech. David made birthday cakes in the shapes of animals. David sang old Gershwin songs off-key. Forget it, Miss Faulkner. You wouldn't understand. You think the slaves should have stayed enslaved.

October 4

I'm going to fail history. Naturally, I didn't give the paper or letter to Miss Faulkner. Why bother writing to even you? Why pretend that you're somebody and you can hear me?

Later: Called St. Agnes and a nun gave me the number of a convent in Alta Dena. The Mother Superior was eager enough to talk to a potential novice (if that's what it's called). She got right on when I explained my interest. The nun business has been slow lately, I'm sure. All that poverty and celibacy; there must not be many takers in this country. Also, that marriage to Christ business is pretty weird. In every religion there's always something that rubs me the wrong way. She asked if I'd been confirmed and I told her I had. (That was an event in itself — Mom dressed me up like a Chatty Cathy doll, complete with patent leather shoes!) The Mother Superior explained that I could come to the convent to live at any time, but that my parents would have to give permission, plus pay room and board until I become a real nun. I was pretty cheerful, imagining myself holed up in a nice stark room somewhere reading Descartes and Heidegger, until she went over the daily routine: three Masses a day for an hour each, cooking, cleaning, milking cows (!). When I asked if I'd have to attend Mass since I'm an atheist, she immediately lost interest. What's the problem?

October 5

David. Please. Please come back. Please. Even with your body screwed up you could still do things. You could be a doctor even, like you wanted to. We could live together forever, and I'd help you out. Please, Dave. You've rested enough. Come back.

Copyright © 2001 by Kelly Easton

Meet the Author

Kelly Easton is the author of Walking on Air and The Life History of a Star, which was a Teen Readers Book Sense Top Ten book and a Golden Kite Award Honor winner. She has published stories in such literary journals as the Connecticut Review, the Paterson Literary Review, Iris, and Frontiers. Kelly Easton lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

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Life History of a Star 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This, along with Hiroshima Dreams, is Kelly Easton at her best. Funny, touching, and filled with profound moments.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book may be about Vietnam, but it feels like it's about right now. I know people whose brothers are in Iraq and they don't have any idea why they're there. I cried so much and laughed so much. My mom read it and loved it as much as I did. Now she's giving it to her friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the best book I have ever read. It was so emotional that you could feel the pain and sorrow of 14 year old Kristen. If I had one thousand thumbs I'd give it that. I strongly recomend you read this book if you like to see yourself in the pages of the books you read. I love you Kelly Easton.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was awesome!!!! I bought it like 7 months ago and I never read it until 2 weeks ago and I am very upset that I didn't read it as soon as I got it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was about a fourteen year old girl named Kristin. In the book/diary she tells about everything she feels inside and expreses it in her diary like any 11 to 14 year old would. She tells about what her friends do too. This book is VERY intense and VERY well written. I loved this book because I'm going through the same things Kristin went through. I can totaly connect to what she fells. I would give this book a 100000000 thumbs up if I had that many thumbs.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book. It was interesting seeing the different things going on in her life living in the 1970's. This book is about a girl whose family is potentialy ripped apart from a 'ghost' that lives upstairs. She has trouble fitting in with he friends, after they all become very promiscuous, and family after vietnam, when the ghost comes to her house. This book doesnt hae much of an ending but it twists in the middle so you want to keep reading. Who is this ghost? Someone you will not suspect. (this book is not about a 'star' or a celebrity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
ha ha ha!! this book is so funny!! I never met someone that is so reblious to her Science Teacher! She is so bad, it's hysterical!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book, funny, serious and sad. Related to very well. Great book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Life History of a star was an amazing book! I really enjoyed reading it. It isn't easy for me to get interested in a book, but with The Life History of a Star I couldn't put the book down! I felt like I could relate to Kristen, and that the book would help me with the changes going on in my life. I think Kristen's problems are every preteen/teenage girl's problem. I would deffinetly reccomend this book to any girl preteen or teen! I think that almost any girl would enjoy it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. It's so well-written that you forget that it's a novel and not really a diary. Kristin's observations on her family, her friends and the 70's are insightful, often highly entertaining, and at times, heartbreaking. There were so many things in this book that touched me; Kristin's intelligence and individualism, the politics of the time - seen through her eyes, and the richness of the characters. By the end of the book I felt as if I had lived through it all with them. This book is listed as being appropriate for ages 12 and over but I think that anyone who was ever 14 would love it and anyone who lived through the 70's would be impressed with how well the feel of the time is conveyed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE LIFE HISTORY OF A STAR is one of the funnies, poignant and most original novels I've come across in years. I think most readers will identify with the trials and tribulations of the 14-year-old heroine. Her voice is so authentic and real. Her cynicism hides a multitude of vulnerability. She sees things with such insight and clarity, I will recommend this book to my friends.