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Your Eyes in Stars

Your Eyes in Stars

4.0 4
by M. E. Kerr

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Set during the Depression, this haunting historical novel by M. E. Kerr follows two teenage girls—one German, the other American—whose friendship plays out against the quickly shifting political world stage
Jessie Myrer is the daughter of the prison warden in Cayuta County, where there are few foreigners and even fewer Jews. Jessie’s


Set during the Depression, this haunting historical novel by M. E. Kerr follows two teenage girls—one German, the other American—whose friendship plays out against the quickly shifting political world stage
Jessie Myrer is the daughter of the prison warden in Cayuta County, where there are few foreigners and even fewer Jews. Jessie’s provincial views change when she meets her new across-the-street neighbor. At fifteen, sophisticated, German-born Elisa Stadler is a year older than Jessie. The girls would seem to have little in common, yet they soon become the best of friends. Then one night, they hear the music of the prison band’s spellbinding solo bugler.
Convicted murderer and gifted musician Slater Carr is the newest arrival at Cayuta Prison. Jessie and Elisa become obsessed with Slater, who to Jessie is like a local John Dillinger—and who was an unwitting part of a botched robbery in which two people were killed. When a daring escape culminates in murder, Elisa’s family moves back to Germany, where Hitler is rising to power. Years later, Jessie makes a shocking discovery about her long-lost friend.
Your Eyes in Stars is a stunning novel about friendship, prejudice, assimilation, and the end of innocence.
This ebook features an illustrated personal history of Marijane Meaker including rare images from the author’s collection. 

Editorial Reviews

Kerr's latest novel about the tribulations of a teenage girl whose father is a prison warden in upstate New York during the 1930s offers several intriguing story lines, but it ultimately fails to tie these disparate threads together. Jessie makes up stories about the inmates who live in her father's prison, especially attractive murderer Slater Carr, who plays in the prison band. She and her friend Elisa, a sophisticated German girl who lives across the street, share romanticized daydreams about Carr and famous gangsters like bank robber John Dillinger. But when Carr slips away during a band performance in town, his real-life escape sets in motion a chain of events that results in murder and the end of Jessie's innocence concerning celebrity criminals. Meanwhile Elisa and her family return to Germany as Hitler comes to power, and Jessie loses contact with her. Years later, Jessie discovers that her friend died in the war helping escaped Jews while posing as a dedicated member of the Hitler Youth. This sketchy historical fiction feels rushed and incomplete. The spare period details do not broaden the reader's understanding of the era, and in some cases, cause unnecessary confusion, as when acne is referred to as "hickeys." Secondary characters are not well fleshed out, and Kerr unveils several contrived revelations in the last few pages, which only tenuously connect the incongruent preceding plot lines. It is not the best example of this esteemed author's work. VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P M J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006,HarperCollins, 240p., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
—Jennifer Hubert
Children's Literature
Jessie Myrer's father is the warden at the prison on Retribution Hill in upstate New York in the 1930s. Jessie collects WANTED posters of famous gangsters, like her current heart-throb John Dillinger. When Elisa Stadler, from a German family, moves across the street, the two girls develop a shared fascination with a new inmate at "The Hill," Slater Carr, a young musically talented "lifer," whose haunting rendition of "Taps" is heard every evening wafting out from the prison walls. The friendship between the two girls is believably developed, as they share favorite poets (Sara Teasdale), prison gossip, future ambitions (manicurist, rich man's wife), and even suicide fantasies. Jessie's mother, who tries to force friendship on Elisa's reclusive family, is a wonderful, larger-than-life comical character. But the story lurches off on a wild and confusing plot twist with Slater's escape and false murder accusation, in a way that is never successfully resolved. The whole last quarter of the book changes terrain entirely and becomes the story of Elisa's return to Germany and encounter with the growing anti-Semitism of the Third Reich, creating a promising, but puzzling book that never fully makes up its mind about what it wants to be. 2006, HarperCollins, Ages 12 up.
—Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-In 1934, teenaged Jessie lives in a small upstate New York town where her father is the warden in the state prison. Her mother is a bit of a social climber, while her father has allowed himself to become overly friendly with a prisoner, Slater, a young Southerner with a heartbreaking background and a keen musical talent. Jessie is pleasantly surprised when the daughter of the German professor who has moved into the neighborhood makes direct appeals for friendship. So unfolds the first section of this deceptively straightforward but sophisticated and engrossing novel. Jessie's friendship with Elisa is interrupted when the Stadlers abruptly return to Germany, an event that happens at the same time that Slater is killed in a situation that makes it appear that he murdered a local man. Jessie and Elisa correspond during the next few years, their letters-as well as those from their acquaintances-making up the latter portion of the novel. Years later, in 1946, Jessie learns what really happened to Elisa. Kerr weaves an authentic story in which characters can know only so much at any given moment of their lives, and actually misunderstand much of what they think they know. The period and the place are re-created with excellent detail. Kerr doesn't have to make Jessie pronounce the big questions because she does such a thorough job of showing that they should be every reader's questions: what is really going on, both under our noses and inside the lives of people we care about but cannot know completely?-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Open Road Media Teen & Tween
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Barnes & Noble
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Your Eyes in Stars

By M. Kerr

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 M. Kerr
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060756837

Chapter One

Jessie Myrer

I didn't believe anyone was actually afraid of the prison. When kids were little, along with spankings, they'd get warnings they were going to end up there if they didn't behave. But nobody in town really feared the place. That's what I thought.

You saw the prison before you saw the town. It looked like a fort sprawled across eighteen acres on Retribution Hill. It was a small city itself, surrounded by a wall thirty feet high and ringed by guards in sentry boxes at the top. They were ready with high-powered rifles. But after my father became warden, townspeople commented that it seemed more like a prep school than a penitentiary. The black-and-white striped uniforms were changed to light-blue ones. The prison band named The Blues became famous in Cayuta County, often appearing in public at Joyland Park in Cayuta or during local parades down Main Street. More and more people didn't say the prison; it began to be called The Hill.

All the other kids who had fathers or mothers working at the prison went four years to Cayuta High West and took courses like Shop and Motor Repair, Typing and Shorthand. At Cayuta High East, where my brother and I were sent, we learned Latin and geometry, French and English composition. After High West you got a job; after High East you went to college.

Three years before, when we first arrived in Cayuta from Elmira Reformatory, my mother reigned over the wives of guards and groundskeepers like a queen. It took her a while to realize this town was different. Prison people weren't high-class. In this town she wasn't royalty of any kind in the eyes of the community. She was nothing, though she herself had said sometimes she felt like "next to nothing," never missing an opportunity to take a step up.

My dad was not a golfer, and he wasn't a sailor, so we Myrers weren't members of the country club or the yacht club. Oh, that wasn't the only reason we weren't. Both my brother and I realized that, and so did my mother. If my father was aware of it, it didn't faze him.

At High East, my brother, Seth, had no problem getting along since he had a build for both basketball and football. He also had a fan, one of those kids who trailed after him and was the only other person in town besides my mother who cut out of the newspapers all the write-ups about him on the sports page of The Cayuta Advertizer. His name was Richard Nolan, and he was my buddy too. We hung out at lunch, eating our sandwiches in the parking lot or on cold days on the stairs near the gym.

Sometimes when Richard was sick or had to go to the orthodontist in nearby Syracuse, New York, I'd walk down Retribution Hill and eat lunch at home.

I'd tell him, "Mother thinks I won't eat in the cafeteria because the Chi Pis snub me." I called those sorority girls the Cowpies.

"Tell her you're just not gregarious. That's a good word, gregarious."

Richard could always tell you what you were or weren't; he prided himself on being a wordsmith.

Rumor had it that J. J. Joy, president of Chi Theta Pi, had called me "tacky" and fought for a 100-percent blackball of me. She'd said I should have gone to High West with others like me.

Richard blamed her blackball of me on her father's rule that she could not date until she was seventeen.

"It's made her bitter and mean," he said.

Over and over Richard and I would moan to each other: "What's to become of us?" Richard wanted to be a writer, which his father said was "a limpwrist ambition." Seth said limpwrist meant "effeminate," and Richard should ask his father how effeminate he thought Rudyard Kipling was or Jack London. . . . Still, I didn't have a clue what would become of me. Maybe I would end up living with my parents like Marlene Hellman, and everyone talked about it. Everyone called her Mayonnaise and said she would always be a child, even though she worked at the telephone company and was a champion bridge player.

I had just finished writing in my diary: "Suicide would be the answer if it wasn't so hard and painful to do." I didn't really mean it. I hadn't even figured out a way to do it. But it gave me a certain satisfaction to record the thought. Diaries aren't meant for good tidings.

That was the day and the very moment when everything about my boring life would change. This was when my mother called up to me, "Jess? Our neighbor Elisa Stadler is on her way up to your room."

The emphasis was on the last name, Stadler. It was a new name to my mother, and already the sound of it was filled with awe and portent.


Excerpted from Your Eyes in Stars by M. Kerr Copyright © 2006 by M. Kerr. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

M. E. Kerr was born Marijane Meaker in Auburn, New York. Her interest in writing began with her father, who loved to read, and her mother, who loved to tell stories of neighborhood gossip. Unable to find an agent to represent her work, Meaker became her own agent, and wrote articles and books under a series of pseudonyms: Vin Packer, Ann Aldrich, Laura Winston, M. E. Kerr, and Mary James. As M. E. Kerr, Meaker has produced over twenty novels for young adults and won multiple awards, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award for her lifetime contribution to young adult literature. 

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Your Eyes in Stars 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Haley-shea More than 1 year ago
I didn't think I would like it as much as I did, let alone like it at all. I was really impressed and finished it almost as soon as I started it. I really loved the plot, there was never a dull moment and some of the quotes in this book were awesome too. The ending was such a shocker but a good, beautiful one at that. My favorite would be the bit about the Eiffel Tower being on a slant and how that's how life is. Fantastic book! Should get more attention than it actually has.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Adrianna Franklin 1/10/08 M. E. Kerr is a genius, audiences across the world are raving over Your Eyes in Stars. The underlining conflict was based on the problems the great depression caused, through the eyes of two girls. This is why the prison is such a big part in the story because there¿s a lot of crime being committed. Teenage girl will be glued to this book. This book isn¿t filled with adventures, so boys probably wouldn¿t be interested. Also, because it¿s from a woman perspective. Two different girls from two very different worlds come together, and become best friend, which will take a turn for the worse. When Jessica Myrer ( the narrator of the story) begins to make up things to impress her best friend, Elisa Stadler. Jessica lies will eventually catch up with her, and as a result her life and her friends and family lives will began to unfold.