The summer before their senior year, Annabelle and Pete are looking forward to reuniting on rainy Gingerbread Beach and continuing their summer romance--they're not yet an official couple. However, Annabelle's new obsession with astrology, stemming from the success it brought her fantasy baseball team, drives pragmatic Pete nuts ("I just sat there on my bed listening to Annabelle go on and on about how Jeter had Saturn in his sixth house or something equally insane"). Annabelle is hurt, but determined to prove that her faith in the stars isn't a joke, so she dares him to run a boardwalk astrology business with her, predicting people's love lives and offering advice. It's a huge success and Pete turns out to be a natural, but the tension between Pete and Annabelle moves beyond their Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry when he begins dating a tattooed college girl. Castle's debut is fluffy, but the characters' alternating perspectives provide convincing teenage voices. The preface to each chapter employs a horoscope to describe new characters (who are otherwise only lightly developed), but the interpretation of astrological principles is intelligent and absorbing. Ages 12-17. (June)
From the Publisher
""This novel gives summer romance a mystical twist with a "he said/she said" point of view, as Pete and Annabelle switch off with the first-person, present-tense narration. A starry-eyed, beachy, light romance."" - Kirkus
"It's a classic light-romance setup bolstered by Castle's impressive grasp of the science of the stars... The story wrings a good deal of pleasure from the emotional hand-wringing. Especially fun is Pete's unexpected skill at reading fortunes. Well, he does have a Capricorn rising, after all.
" - Booklist
It's a classic light-romance setup bolstered by Castle's impressive grasp of the science of the stars... The story wrings a good deal of pleasure from the emotional hand-wringing. Especially fun is Pete's unexpected skill at reading fortunes. Well, he does have a Capricorn rising, after all.
VOYA - Mary Boutet
While I can understand the appeal of a good summer romance novel, The Star Shack leaves a lot to be desired. The premise is completely unbelievableit is unclear why Annabelle's love of astrology is a deal breaker for Pete. Beyond this, the plot and characters are pretty formulaic. A predictable ending isn't necessarily bad, but coupled with not-so-great and corny writing, it is an unsatisfying finish. There are the basic characters but they seem like caricatures of real people, making it impossible to connect to them. Pete's total disregard for Annabelle's feelings makes her seem all the more one-dimensional and contributes to the overall mean-spirited undertone present in both Pete and Annabelle's narratives. The horoscopes before every chapter are clever, but otherwise, the novel as a whole is disappointing. Reviewer: Mary Boutet, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Alissa Lauzon
Since the summer they were twelve, Pete and Annabelle have been inseparable best friends, a romance considered inevitable by the summer community of Gingerbread Beach. This summer, though, their relationship has changed. Pete struggles with Annabelle's insistence that astrology has an impact on their daily liveshe puts no faith in "wacky out-there stuff" and cannot understand how a seemingly down-to-earth girl could plan her life around the stars. Annabelle does not understand Pete's sudden distance and avoidance of her. After a huge fight, Annabelle dares Pete to open a business on the boardwalk for the summer in which they would use astrology to help people find romance. If they are able to help put together a bunch of happy couples, Pete will admit that Annabelle is right; if they are unsuccessful, Annabelle will never say another word about astrology. With the fate of their friendship hanging in the balance, The Star Shack is born. Unfortunately The Star Shack does little to stand out among the other summer romances with its formulaic plot and stock characters. The use of horoscopes between chapters seems gimmicky, particularly since they are often for characters that are inconsequential to the plot. The rotation in narration allows readers to understand the thoughts and emotions of both Pete and Annabelle, yet their narrations often feel too adult. Characters' sudden changes in opinion do not ring true, particularly Pete's complete acceptance of astrology. Purchase only where there is high demand for beach reads. Reviewer: Alissa Lauzon
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Annabelle and Pete share a passion for baseball, but when she develops an obsession with astrology, it derails their deepening relationship. Incessant references to the hobby aggravate Pete, while his increasingly uncommunicative behavior troubles Annabelle. When the stars say she should move ahead with a business venture, she dares Pete to join her in establishing a romantic-advice astrology booth on Gingerbread Beach's boardwalk, even though he is being pursued by, and starts dating, Sarah, an older and more sophisticated teen whose passive-aggressive remarks and condescending behavior unsettle Annabelle. If the booth's a bust, Annabelle promises never to talk about astrology with Pete again. Never one to decline a dare, Pete accepts, and quickly wins over customers with his charisma and his wide knowledge of astrology, attained during cram sessions and aided by his photographic memory. The narration switches between the two protagonists effectively. Characterizations are realistic and natural, including Annabelle's post-breakup emotions and Sarah's aggressively flirtatious and catty attitude. Pete's excitement over being noticed by an older girl is authentic, while his conflicting feelings regarding his relationship with Annabelle are plausible. The ending is predictable yet not overly cheesy, and the love stories set in motion by the duo's advice are sweet. Not an essential purchase, but an enjoyable summer read.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
The rainy beach town of Gingerbread is Pete and Annabelle's summer home. Despite their basic incompatibility-he's a Red Sox fan; she roots for the Yankees-they've enjoyed a blossoming romance and a perfect kiss. Their differing views on astrology drive them apart until Annabelle proposes they open a business reading horoscopes for local residents. Pete starts off skeptical, but he shows a talent for astrology. His love advice produces matches made in the heavens, but Annabelle feels like she's losing her mojo. As the business takes off, Pete and Annabelle fight more and more, to the point where each is sure they'll never get back together. This novel gives summer romance a mystical twist with a "he said/she said" point of view, as Pete and Annabelle switch off with the first-person, present-tense narration. Although they both make stupid decisions about their relationship, in the end they realize their love is in the stars. The cast of peripheral characters is large and doesn't allow for much development, but it's carried well enough by Pete and Annabelle, who are smart and articulate. A starry-eyed, beachy, light romance. (Fiction. 12 & up)
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter 1:
The first time I saw Annabelle Lomax, she was holding a gun.
It was pointed straight at the enemy of every single middle-schooler who ever spent summers at Gingerbread Beach. That enemy was Laser Tag Larry-and, yeah, the gun was just a laser-tag gun-but it's hard not to emphasize the drama of the moment. This was Laser Tag Larry. When I saw Annabelle gripping the plastic pistol, her wild curls flying out behind her, I knew (shut up; it's embarrassing enough to admit) my life had changed forever. Not that I'm one of those corny people who believes in love at first sight or soul mates or any of that stuff.
I'm definitely not. But three facts: 1) I was suddenly sweating even though it was cold and rainy on the boardwalk; 2) I couldn't take my eyes off her; 3) I'd forgotten about the game of laser tag my friend Scott had challenged me to. At twelve, nothing matters more than a laser-tag challenge. Nothing. Hence the drama of pointing a gun at Laser Tag Larry. No one does drama quite like Annabelle Lomax.
The quiet thud of a raindrop hits the roof of my old silver Honda. The sun is still shining behind me, but the dark clouds directly ahead mean I'm getting close. I can't help stepping on the gas just a little harder, even though I promised my mom I'd keep to the speed limit if my parents let me drive down from Vermont on my own in our other car. My parents are ski instructors, so you'd think they'd be fiends for land speed, but actually my mom is a paranoid control freak. I made sure to stop for gas right away so they couldn't tail me. Not that my parents are so bad, but I didn't want to spend the four hours driving to Gingerbread Beach hearing about the article my mom is writing on ski gear for Ski Now and having her gasp and reach for the door handle every time I passed another vehicle.
Instead, I wanted to spend the time listening to my iPod. I don't have anything against other music besides the triumvirate (Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the Ramones), but really, no one says it quite like old-school '70s punk. With my friends, I'll listen to rap or whatever, but when I'm alone, I like the classics.
So once I ditch my parents at the gas station, it's just me and Joey Ramone. At first, I'm mostly singing along, banging the steering wheel. But then the live version of "I Want to be Your Boyfriend" comes on, and it gets me thinking about the summer.
Before the spring, I was practically counting down the days to June 25 when we'd head back to our summer house in Gingerbread with the endless rain that's a million times better than all the snow we get at home-see, rain has the added perk of keeping tourists away at a beach resort-and the boardwalk where Jed makes the best coffee ever at the Opera House Café. Where you can get a bucket of clams at Kitty's Clam Shack next door, so fresh they are practically still breathing. But really it's Annabelle. At least it always was Annabelle until a few months ago.
The rain is steady now. When I turn on my wipers, I remember that I was supposed to get new ones before the trip. No big deal; I'm almost there-and I know the route by heart since we've been coming here since I was in seventh grade. And although I'm not sure how things will go with Annabelle, if this really will be the summer we finally get together, I can't help smiling like lunatic when I see the sign-Gingerbread Beach Scenic Drive 1 mile-up ahead.
Once I exit the highway, I'm really feeling it. I roll down the window, and the rain pelts the passenger seat, mixing with the salty smell of the ocean. I pass the Everything Beach Store that has all things necessary for a Gingerbread vacation: beach chairs, oversized towels, and most of all, a wide selection of rain gear. Rain suits, rain boots, rain swimwear.
Last year Annabelle decided she needed a pair of rubber boots. She got these ones with whales printed on them and a matching umbrella, and then danced around the parking lot warbling "Singing in the Rain." I spit up my coffee, staining my shirt, so Annabelle went back in and bought me a bright pink T-shirt that says "Catch Me if You Can, I'm the Gingerbread Man" with a big print of lips on top. Then she dared me to wear it because she knows I can never say no to a dare. Jerk.
When you're with Annabelle, you don't even care that you're wearing the most humiliating shirt ever to come off an assembly line; you actually think it's funny. Not that I'll wear it again anytime soon... I turn left at the gas station, and then I see it: the boardwalk. I pull into the parking lot where the road ends and the sand of Gingerbread Beach begins. Gingerbread gets so much rain that the sand always has a crispy covering-that's where it gets its name.