Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Stars in Your Eyes by Kacen Callender. I didn’t remember much about this one before deciding to pick it up, but I’m glad I read it. Apparently, it was exactly what I needed to end my recent streak of disappointing reads, which is odd considering how heavy the story turned out to be.
The National Book Award-winning author of Felix Ever After delivers a beautifully tender story of two grumpy/sunshine, fake-dating actors navigating their love story both on and offscreen—perfect for fans of Casey McQuiston and Alexis Hall.
Logan Gray is Hollywood’s bad boy—a talented but troubled actor who the public loves to hate. Mattie Cole is an up‑and‑coming golden boy, adored by all but plagued by insecurities.
When Logan and Mattie are cast as leads in a new romantic film, Logan claims that Matt has “zero talent,” sending the film’s publicity into a nosedive. To create positive buzz, the two are persuaded into a fake‑dating scheme—but as the two actors get to know their new characters, real feelings start to develop.
As public scrutiny intensifies and old wounds resurface, the two must fight for their relationship and their love.
A heartfelt, hopeful, and nuanced story about identity, healing, and growth.
***Thank you to Forever for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I’m having such a hard time wrapping my head around all my thoughts about this book. Stars in Your Eyes was gripping and lovely and painful and hopeful. It made me feel so many things and allowed me the opportunity to analyze some of my own reactions to the impacts of trauma on people and relationships.
At first I thought I was in for a cute enemies to lovers, fake dating romcom set on a movie set in Hollywood. I was all ready for it and enjoyed that dynamic at the start of the book. Stars in Your Eyes quickly became more than that, though. It morphed into a beautifully nuanced exploration of how cPTSD can make life and relationships super messy because it causes people to constantly push others away, either due to believing they don’t deserve them and/or to protect themselves, which often leads to a life of loneliness and self-destruction. Add fame into the mix, and you get a recipe for disaster.
One of my favorite things about Stars in Your Eyes was how it incorporated dialectical thought into its examination of the characters and their relationships. The author could have taken the easy way out and either blamed the traumatized characters for their dysfunction or excused their bad behavior away because of the difficulties they’d faced. Instead, they illustrated how it is possible for two opposing ideas to be true at once. A person who has experienced trauma deserves compassion and support, but they are also responsible for the harm their behavior causes and for working towards their own healing and growth. The central relationship in Stars in Your Eyes emphasized the importance of both of these elements so well.
I also appreciated how Stars in Your Eyes addressed the role of shame in queer identity development. Unsurprisingly, there are a plethora of negative effects to growing up in a society that largely looks upon such a key piece of one’s identity as disgusting or sinful. Shame is a huge issue that many queer people spend a lifetime unpacking, and these characters provided such a realistic window into the struggle to accept oneself.
I want to talk about the characters in Stars in Your Eyes so bad, but I’m not going to. I think it would be best for readers to get to know them as the story progresses. All I’ll say is that I loved both of them. They were so broken, yet also so strong. Just be sure you are ready for some heavy character work and messy relationship dynamics. I think content warnings are important for this book. So, I’ll include some of the major ones here behind a black highlight for those who don’t want to be spoiled: childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, homophobia, biphobia.
There are just a couple other things I’d like to say about Stars in Your Eyes. The book provided engaging commentary about the pitfalls of fame, and I liked how the author incorporated tweets, blog/vlog stories, therapy notes, and other documentation to supplement the character’s POVs and highlight how toxic people’s attitude toward celebrities can be. I also feel the need to mention that while I liked where the story ended up, the last few chapters seemed almost like they should have been a separate story of their own. I can’t really say more than that without delving into spoiler territory.
Overall, I loved Stars in Your Eyes. I could probably talk about this book all day and have barely scratched the surface of my thoughts. This story was such a masterful representation of the impacts of chronic relational trauma, and it approached the topic with great care and nuance. Therefore, I rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Stars in Your Eyes by Kacen Callender? Is it on your TBR? Let me know down in the comments!