There's a Lot to Learn in the Desert


Audrey Alcott's ability to sense a lie had always made things awkward with peers. So when her best friend lied to her, she was inconsolable and felt totally alone. Need a fact? Aaron Archer is your man. Except when it comes to "feeling" something. Just ask his now former Quiz Masters teammates.

Convinced their personalities will keep them from ever having friends, Audrey and Aaron have resigned themselves to a lonely life. Their parents think differently, and enroll them at el Viaje a la Confianza, a 6-week intensive Wilderness camp. With only maps, compasses, and the sky to help them, Audrey and Aaron are part of a group of 8 middle school kids heading into the Texas desert with a former pro Football player as their guide. When they arrived at camp, the teens were absorbed in their own issues. Before long, though, alliances form, and as events unfold, they begin to realize that a quirk can sometimes be an ability and that friendship has its own personality, too.

BTSYA / Teen Reader (16):
I like how the story alternated between Audrey and Aaron. It is always interesting to read a book with dual narrators because you can better understand the character and the plot from different viewpoints. The plot itself is well-developed and exciting. As the story continued, you can see the character development shift in some of the campers’ personalities and/or perspectives. There isn’t anything  I disliked about the book. The story kept me hooked until the last page and I read it all in one sitting.

Despite Audrey and Aaron being 13, the book is kid-friendly and there are no offensive themes. To m, it is suitable for readers 10+ and I also think preteens and young teens would like it. Audrey and Aaron are thirteen-year-olds themselves, so this would be a great book for pre-teens or young teens. Overall, I enjoyed this book. This is a great book to read for all kids, not just those who feel they are special misfits or outcasts.

Parent Perspective:
I loved reading this! Audrey and Aaron aren't the only authentic characters. Kids will see themselves or peers in Kevin and Daphne (bullies), Louis (anxiety), and Kate (grieving over her grandmother). I was surprised when I saw that Connect the Stars is science fiction. It seems very realistic, which is what brings me to my one nit with the book: Jare, the group leader. I get that this is fiction and what happens is part of the story [no spoiler]. Even so, his behavior created a perception that didn't sit well with me. I am very familiar with Wilderness camps. They are staffed by professionals, including youth counselors. His character poorly represents not only the kind of work they do, but some of the 'treatment' as well.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Through their narration, Audrey and Aaron take readers out to the desert and into their hearts. A perfect read for middle schoolers struggling to figure out who they are and how they fit in.

Content Awareness Factors:

One character swears once. There are mentions of murder and bloody physical injuries that may be triggering to some younger audiences, but these details are kept very minimal and serve to support the story development.

Type of Book:
A sophisticated, well-written novel that will engage readers into high school [high interest / low readability].
Educational Themes:

An exceptional choice for youth book clubs! From the general themes of teen issues to more nuanced topics (death, abandonment, anger) there is a lot to explore. What did Audrey, Aaron and their campmates have in common at the beginning of the book? How did that change? Did they change? If so, what motivated the change.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
10 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
9 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 16
Purchase Recommendation:
Buy. This is a very special book. Thought-provoking in a way that meets preteens and teens where they are.

Title Connect the Stars
Author David Teague, Marisa de los Santos
Publisher Harper, Imprint HarperCollins Publishers © 2015
ISBN 9780062274656
Material Hard Cover
Cost $16.99
Genres Family, Friendship, Realism | Realistic Fiction, Disabilities | Developmental Challenges
Reminder: Cover images, and links are affiliate links. The Reading Tub can earn income via purchases made via these links. 100% of any income goes directly to our literacy mission.
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