Eleven year old Aster feels as though she is the only student at her school who isn’t gifted. Every day, she sets out to do a good, right thing, with lots of rules governing if it is good and right and how good, right things should feel. She does these things to build her own safety net; her mother has left her, and she doesn’t want anyone else to leave her. So if she can just do enough good, right things, then she will be safe.
This novel is absolutely breathtaking. I even struggled to write a review, because it touched my heart so deeply I feared my effusive response would come across as insincere. But the truth is that this book is exceptional, and the world would be a better place if every single adult read it.
We speak approximately 7,000 words a day. Some may go over or under, but that’s the number Google gives us. Aster’s mom was not careful with her words. She spoke harsh, impatient words. She blamed her daughter for her choices. And her daughter is paying the price- the cost of which is too high for any eleven year old to handle.
Aster struggles with anxiety and possibly depression, and the way the story conveys this information is delicate and accurate. She second guesses and overthinks every decision, from big moments to if she should smile. She’s become painfully shy, unable to speak when others speak to her. She feels as though she is a ghost, a cloud, invisible.
Slowly, Aster begins to see herself not the way her mother saw her, but the way her loved ones see her. She wrestles with the ‘noise’, she struggles to do the best good, right thing, all while learning sometimes the good, right thing is to do a good, right thing for yourself.
The language, dialogue, and characterization of struggling children is all beautifully woven into a story that gives hope in a realistic light. We see Aster when she is feeling her worst, and we see her soar. We see the way she moves from one into the other, and we see her growing.
This story is just so beautiful. The themes are very grown up- anxiety and depression are no light topic. There are some really difficult circumstances discussed in this book, from foster care to hospitalization due to mental health. Yet Kate Gordon handles each topic with a delicate and deliberate touch that leaves the reader more empathetic, feeling seen, and just overall better. It’s vitally important to show readers, especially young readers, that feeling the way Aster, Xavier, or Indigo feels is nothing to be ashamed of.
This beautiful book is sure to touch the heart of anyone who reads it. It is absolutely worth the time, whether anyone in your home falls into the middle grade range or not. This is a novel for all ages, about a young girl struggling to find her place in the world.
Kate Gordon’s Aster’s Good, Right Things will be available November 1, 2020 from Riveted Press and Yellow Brick Books. Big thanks to them and to Net Galley for the opportunity to review this gem of a book!