Tethered to Other Stars
Elisa Stone Leahy
Quill Tree Press
Published October 3, 2023
About Tethered to Other Stars
Perfect for fans of EFREN DIVIDED and A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE, this luminous middle grade debut follows a tween girl navigating the devastating impact of ICE’s looming presence on her family and community.
Seventh grader Wendy Toledo knows that black holes and immigration police have one thing in common: they can both make things disappear without a trace. When her family moves to a new all-American neighborhood, Wendy knows the plan: keep her head down, build a telescope that will win the science fair, and stay on her family’s safe orbit.
But that’s easier said than done when there’s a woman hiding out from ICE agents in the church across the alley–and making Wendy’s parents very nervous.
As bullying at school threatens Wendy’s friendships and her hopes for the science fair, and her family’s secrets start to unravel, Wendy finds herself caught in the middle of far too many gravitational pulls. When someone she loves is detained by ICE, Wendy must find the courage to set her own orbit–and maybe shift the paths of everyone around her.
This is such a beautiful story. I grew up with the movie OCTOBER SKY. This book felt like it had a little bit of the vibes from that story: A girl with big dreams and an eye on the sky. A town full of people who don’t see her or understand her. A group of friends who do see her (once she lets them in). And discovering the heroes in your midst.
I loved Wendy’s friend group. She keeps a lot to herself, so at first, there’s a lot of distance between her and her friends. As they slowly get to know one another and build their friendships, she sees that they each have fears and dark things they’ve hidden, too.
Wendy’s Mom is awesome. I love the way she quietly supports her children, sometimes without even using words. I also love that Wendy is the one who makes several pivotal choices and takes critical action that creates change in the story. It would have been easy to let that fall on an older character and have Wendy be a witness to what happens. Instead, she takes charge. Also, I loved the way her taking action gets connected to her love for stars and forces acting in the universe for change.
I loved this book, and I think anyone who loves astronomy or feels scared or alone will find lots to love about this book, too.
Content Notes for Tethered to Other Stars
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Wendy is Latine and American. Wendy’s friend Mal is Korean American. Her friend Yasmin is Muslim and wears a hijab. K.K. is Black. Etta is gay.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Wendy feels attracted to a boy briefly.
Wendy learns that her friend retreats to a safe space at school to pray.
Scenes show bullying and microaggressions. For example, kids deface K.K.’s campaign posters and posters about a Unity Club for inclusivity. Anti-immigrant graffiti appears on the walls. A boy also tries to take credit for Wendy’s work on a science project, insinuating that she is lazy and hasn’t helped him at all.
Characters in the story follow the case of a woman who takes refuge at a church to avoid deportation. Some characters refer to her as “illegal,” and others explain how that term is dehumanizing. A person can’t be illegal. She can do something which is illegal, but she can’t be illegal herself.
A teenager smokes a cigarette in a parking lot.
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centered around a girl who loves the stars