Summary and book reviews of The Blue Star by Tony Earley

The Blue Star

By Tony Earley

The Blue Star
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2008,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2009,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

Seven years ago, readers everywhere fell in love with Jim Glass, the precocious 10-year-old at the heart of Tony Earley's bestseller Jim the Boy. Now a teenager, Jim returns in another tender and wise story of young love on the eve of World War II.

Jim Glass has fallen in love, as only a teenage boy can fall in love, with his classmate Chrissie Steppe. Unfortunately, Chrissie is Bucky Bucklaw's girlfriend, and Bucky has joined the navy on the eve of war. Jim vows to win Chrissie's heart in his absence, but the war makes high school less than a safe haven and gives a young man's emotions a grown man's gravity.

With the uncanny insight into the well-intentioned heart that made Jim the Boy a favorite novel for readers nationwide, Tony Earley has fashioned another nuanced and unforgettable portrait of America in another time—making it again even more real than our own day. This is a timeless and moving story of discovery, loss, and growing up, proving why Tony Earley's writing "radiates with a largeness of heart" (Esquire).

At the Top

Because they were seniors and had earned the right, Jim and his buddies stood on the small landing at the top of the school steps, squarely in front of the red double doors. Every student entering the building, boy or girl, had to go around them to get inside. The boys pretended not to notice that they were in everyone else’s way, and moved aside only when a teacher climbed the stairs. They had ruled Aliceville School for less than a month but now held this high ground more or less comfortably. The first few days of school, Jim had halfway expected some older boys to come along and tell them to get lost, but during the preceding three weeks, he had gradually come to appreciate that there were no older boys. He and his friends were it.

The school overlooked the town from atop a steep hill. Jim tilted his face slightly into the clear sunlight and tenderly considered the world below him. At the foot of the hill the houses and barns and sheds of Aliceville lay scattered...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. At the beginning of The Blue Star it is revealed that Jim's uncle Zeno once experienced a failed romance with Nancy, the mother of Chrissie, with whom Jim has now fallen in love. How does this shared history influence Jim and Chrissie's relationship?
  2. The book's title is derived from a banner displayed in the family house of those actively serving military duty. How does Bucky Bucklaw's departure for the navy on the eve of World War II affect Jim's feelings for Chrissie? How does it affect Jim's feelings about himself?
  3. Even though Chrissie is engaged to Bucky and Norma is eager to be Jim's bride, Jim refuses to consider spending his life with anyone other than Chrissie. What do you think his motivation is? Is ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

With writing reminiscent of Newberry award-winning author Richard Peck. (A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way From Chicago). The Blue Star transports the reader to rural America at the onset of WW II, showing how deeply war touches the lives of this community. Although written for adults, The Blue Star has great potential as a 'cross-over' title for teen readers. In an interview with Publisher's Weekly, Earley acknowledges that the Jim books are not smart, hip or postmodern. Nor are they violent, gothic or bloody. Therein lies their charm and appeal. But don't be fooled by the simple narrative. The Blue Star deals with themes that are highly relevant to teens today, such as teen pregnancy, child abuse and racial prejudice.

If you want to get lost in a book set in an authentic time and place with endearing characters, treat yourself, and any young person you know, to Jim The Boy and The Blue Star.   (Reviewed by Vy Armour).

Full Review Members Only (999 words).

Media Reviews
The New York Times - Scott Turow

I galloped through the novel and relished every page…Earley knows Jim and his world with a sureness and an intimacy that always mark the most involving fiction.

Kirkus Reviews

A sweet-tempered, mostly successful sequel for those who like their fiction sepia-toned.

Publishers Weekly

[A] narrative that's deceptive in its simplicity: the growing pains that Jim and his friends experience pack a startling emotional punch.

Library Journal

Beautifully told, this old-fashioned love story is the kind of fiction readers have come to expect from Earley after his luminous, warmhearted first novel, Jim the Boy.

Houston Chronicle - Barbara Liss

Earley has placed Jim squarely in the cohort that journalist Tom Brokaw celebrated as The Greatest Generation and has given him the virtues Brokaw praised in his book. Committed to duty, honor and love of family and country, Jim could be one of Brokaw's venerable subjects.

This is the flaw in Earley's portrayal of the life and times of Jim Glass: It is without nuance or subtlety. Each chapter reads more like a Sunday school lesson than real life being lived somewhere, in some time.

Los Angeles Times - Carmela Ciuraru

It's true that The Blue Star comes perilously close to sentimentality in certain moments and in others indulges in it full on. Still, there's an appealing sweetness to this story. Those who like their fiction too smart alecky for its own good may bristle at Earley's latest work, but those with irony fatigue and a tolerance for earnest, straightforward prose will find much to appreciate.

The Boston Globe - Porter Shreve

Reading Tony Earley is like riding along on a winding mountain road and wondering at how he manages to steer clear of the ruts and gaps. He avoids the insularity and easy eccentricities of Southern regionalism, the retrograde yearning for a bygone era, the predictable arc of growth of the standard coming-of-age. In "The Complete Jim Glass" everything old is made new. Timelessness means we hope the story never ends.

USA Today - Bob Minzesheimer,

When you've loved a novel as much as I loved Tony Earley's 2000 debut, Jim the Boy, the prospect of a sequel triggers an uneasy blend of anticipation and doubt .... I'm happy to report that Earley's The Blue Star works as a sequel and a lovely coming-of-age story that can be savored on its own.

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

Though Mr. Earley’s style remains endearingly airborne, The Blue Star is in substance heavier than its predecessor. Mr. Earley's disarming folksiness is intact, but the portents of his story are dark. Jim feels this shift as he senses that his real life is about to begin. He knows he has reached an age to make irrevocable choices. But for the moment, in the teenage time capsule that is The Blue Star, the future is only foreshadowing. Jim lives in a beautifully evoked state of suspended animation.

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Beyond the Book

Back in the early '90s I owned a bookstore and often heard parents bemoan the lack of good books for young boys. Had Mr. Earley's books been in print at the time, I would have been hand-selling them like hotcakes to adults and teens, both boys and girls. Now, almost two decades later, I'm going to be sure my grandchildren read Mr Earley's books.


Teenage Boys and Reading: Did you know?

In 2005, The Washington Post published an article titled "Why Johnny Won't Read" that explored a worrisome trend:

"From 1992 to 2002, the gender gap in reading by young adults widened considerably. In overall book reading, young women slipped from 63 percent to 59 percent, while young men plummeted from 55 percent to 43 percent."

...

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