So first things first, Stella is a lot like Mean Girls. I mean a lot. The first half or so is so similar that I was sure the book was going to end with Caitlin breaking up a tiara into tiny pieces and distributing it to a crowd. (Spoiler: Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.) The problem with Stella is that when it finally veers off of its obviously Mean Girls-inspired track, it becomes really boring.
A little background –
Stella is, as she tells us on page two, incredibly beautiful. But not only that! No, she’s also incredibly smart and she has the most incredibly perfect life. You should want to be her. Everybody else does. Stella’s main goal is to follow in her dead sister’s footsteps and become the new Head Girl of her boarding school in the end-of-year elections. She’s going to use her beauty and wealth and power and cruelty… and the influence of her sister to do it.
Caitlin is the new girl, entering Temperley because her parents are getting divorced and her father wants to give her a fresh start in England because she’s too introverted at her Manhattan prep school. (Talk about a terrible father.) In reality, he just wants to hook up with lots of ladies in a new country and he doesn’t want to have to deal with his soon to be ex-wife or young son. Caitlin shows up at Temperley thinking she’s really plain and boring and stuff, but soon learns that she’s actually gorgeous and everybody wants to be friends with her.
Stella brings Caitlin into her group – the Stars – and Caitlin is introduced to a world totally unlike anything she’s ever known. The Stars are cruel. They get exactly what they want, when they want it. They’re the royalty of Temperley and the girls are all dying to be a member of their clique, and all the boys are dying to date them. After hanging out with the Stars for a few weeks, Caitlin goes from a normal teenage girl to a power hungry crazypants. When she finds out that not everybody is happy under Stella’s rule, she realizes that she can use her new power and influence to take over the school.
The problems I had with this book, aside from the obvious borrowings from Mean Girls:
1. The writing is incredibly childish. The author is lauded as graduating with honors from a master’s program in creative writing, but I feel like I could have written a better book. Stella and Caitlin have the exact same voice, despite the fact that they’re from entirely different countries. The writing would have been much more credible if Caitlin had been written in American English. Am I really supposed to believe that Caitlin has started using British spelling and grammar after being there for one school year? I don’t think so.
2. None of the characters were particularly distinctive. All of the other Stars just blended together, and the boys were almost indistinguishable.
3. I thought the ending was ridiculous. Was I supposed to feel something? I didn’t, other than gratefulness that the book was done.
To avoid spoiling the few unpredictable plot points, I’ll refrain from saying anything else. I do want to highlight at least something positive, though, so I will say that it’s an incredibly quick read. I read the majority of it over about two hours on a Friday afternoon. It almost reads like a movie, although not a very good one. My guess, given the wildly varying reviews that this book has, is that I am not the target demographic.
Thank you to Goodreads First Reads and the publisher for the ARC.
Final rating: ★★☆☆☆