A few months ago and by some miracle, I became part of the Libro.fm Influencer Program, which gives me access to early copies of audiobooks. I don't say that to brag (okay, maybe just a little) but to explain how I lucked into an early copy of the audiobook version of Stars in Your Eyes by Kacen Callender...and they have instantly become an auto-buy author for me. Seriously, I'm kicking myself for not reading any of their books sooner--I just didn't know what I was missing!
Stars in Your Eyes has a whole cast of characters, but our main characters are Logan Gray and Mattie Cole. Logan is a very well known, very talented actor and Hollywood's resident bad boy. He jumps from tryst to tryst, partakes in a plethora of substances, and is pretty much hell on wheels...and people love to hate him. On the flip side, we have Mattie Cole, who is America's sweetheart. He's much newer to the industry than Logan, and while insecure, he's beloved by...well, pretty much everyone he encounters (and hundreds of thousands of fans that he doesn't encounter). After Logan publicly makes an off-handed comment basically calling Mattie a bad actor, both men are cast as the leads in a romantic comedy--opposite each other. Awkward!
The film is important for a variety of reasons: it will be a Queer love story gracing the silver screen and its stars are two Black men. Seriously, I wish it was going to be a film in real life because we need more stories representative of everyone, not just Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in another rom com in space or something. I don't know, but I digress.
Unfortunately, thanks to Logan's comments about "no talent" Mattie, the film's publicity tanks before production has even begun. So naturally, to "fix" it, the studio executives hatch the perfect plan: a fake dating scheme! They'll set a schedule of "dates" and public appearances, perfectly curate social media posts, and even pre-plan the breakup after the press tour! What could possibly go wrong?
This book has a lot of tropes we love (grumpy sunshine, fake dating, etc) but this is not your typical rom com. Sure, there is romance, but my gosh this book is so much deeper than that. It's far more real than most books can get right. I mean, sure, we love a lovey dovey, everything is perfect all of the time, there's a quick third act breakup (ugh just kidding I do not love those) but everything is resolved before they can walk off into the sunset together. Stars in Your Eyes is much more messy. It's poignant and real and earth-shatteringly devastating at points. It's loving your partner, trauma and all, but knowing that one single person cannot heal another. It's about a partner not always being enough to fix everything that's broken. It acknowledges that sometimes, you have to do the hard work, loving yourself before anyone else could possibly even begin to know you enough to love you. It's a reminder that not all happily ever afters are them walking off into the sunset together.
The story is told mostly from Logan and Mattie's perspectives, but there are other voices interspersed. Occasionally, the book cuts to a gossip YouTuber and Mattie Cole fangirl to report on why Logan Gray sucks that week, then to a Twitter feed of reactions to spoilery things, to an AO3 fanfic account that gave me LIFE. It called out AO3 in the best, most hilarious way possible (without hating on AO3...you'll have to read it, but you'll get it). Then there were news reports and therapy notes and cuts to Mattie's memoir from the future that keeps you stressed and hopeful...but mostly stressed.
I seriously cannot say enough good things about Stars in Your Eyes. Bravo, Kacen. Bravo.
The only thing I can say about the audiobook that I found odd was that there was a British character who had, then lost, their accent. That was a bit weird, but outside of that, the cast did a phenomenal job.
Oh, also, a fun aside: Mattie was from Decatur, Georgia, which is where my favorite "local" indie, Little Shop of Stories, is located!
You know I have to drop them, even though they are listed at the start of the book: trigger warning for references to sexual abuse, rape, and exploitation of a minor (does not happen on page, but is a major theme/trauma referenced throughout the book), sexual assault and attempted rape (which is still assault), substance abuse, some violence, online bullying (celebrities are people too, y'all), homophobia, biphobia, racism, strained parental relationships, and general PTSD/trauma.
Fair warning: you WILL cry. Probably like a baby. I know I did.
Love and free, unlimited coffee on set,
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this audiobook from Libro.fm and have voluntarily written this review with my honest feedback. You can (and should!!) create your own Libro.fm account here, where you can support your local bookstore (like Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA!) while enjoying audiobooks either through a monthly membership, or by purchasing audiobooks a la carte. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop.org affiliate link above, I will receive a small commission and you'll support local indies! If you purchase a copy using my Amazon affiliate link above, I will receive a small commission which I will use to justify my literary addictions and to spoil my dogs (probably).