When Moon Lin moves next door to Christine Hong, Christine is hesitant to meet this girl who, rumor has it, "beats people up." But Moon proves herself to be "confident," "funny" and the most "not Asian" Chinese-American Christine has ever met ("Really?" Christine's mom asks Moon, "Your mom doesn't speak Chinese to you?"). Christine and Moon quickly become best friends, and Moon shares with Christine that she sees "angel people" who will soon come to return her to her rightful place among the stars. When Christine's grades start slipping and her dad chastises her for straying from her "path," Christine distances herself from her new friend. But a shocking medical discovery puts things in perspective as Christine realizes how much Moon actually means to her.
Author-illustrator Jen Wang (The Prince and the Dressmaker) melds events from her childhood into a bittersweet story about friendship and self-identity. Stargazing is an excellent examination of the experience of Chinese immigrants and their American-born children from the perspective of someone with very little exposure to people outside her homogenous community. Wang gives her characters distinct voices while also allowing the art to speak, creating expressive, thoughtful moments that show Moon fearing she doesn't fit the mold of a Chinese-American or Christine feeling left out. Sometimes Wang lets the art break frame, which not only adds an extra dimension visually, but also gives a sense of immediacy to significant moments. Colorist Lark Pien adds even more nuance to the illustrations, using a muted palette to express the sameness Christine has witnessed her whole life or depicting Moon in a vibrant green shirt among everyone's drab earth tones to clue readers into her affecting presence. These deliberate choices lead to a dynamic story that is both hopeful and emotionally affective. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader