________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005


Ceiling Stars. (SideStreets).

Sandra Diersch.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2004.
141 pp., pbk. & cl., $6.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).  
ISBN 1-55028-834-2 (pbk.),  ISBN 1-55028-835-0 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Friendship - Juvenile fiction.
Manic-depressive illness - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-12  / Ages 12-17.

Review by Susan Rose.

*** /4


In a flash Danelle has her shoes off and is standing on my bed, critically analyzing my ceiling.

When she's done we lie side by side on my bed, staring at the results of her labour. Danelle has made the room as dark as she can and the stars actually glow - kind of weakly, but they do glow.

"It looks good," I tell her, surprised at how much I like it.

"See? Didn't I tell you? I love mine. And now when we go to bed, we can think of each other lying under the same big sky. Isn't there some kind of song about that? From some Disney movie I think. Anyway, they look good."

I glance sideways at her; she takes my hand and squeezes it. We lie there together staring at my ceiling. Everyone should have a friend like Danelle, I think: someone who pushes you out of your comfort zone. I don't always think this way - in fact, usually the opposite - but right now, staring at my "galaxy," I squeeze her hand back.


Opposites attract. This is certainly the case with serious, studious Chris and her impulsive, outlandish friend Danelle. Ceiling Stars begins with Danelle’s convincing a reluctant Chris to skip school in order to obtain autographs from a popular rock band appearing at a local Vancouver music store. Chris goes along with the scheme, but, as weeks pass, she finds that Danelle's proposals become more bizarre. At first, Chris suspects drug abuse, but later she realizes that Danelle has developed a mental illness.

     As Chris struggles to understand Danelle, she reaches out for help from school counselors and other friends. She spends more time with her down-to-earth friend, Alana, and deepens her relationship with handsome Jack. Chris works towards her high school graduation while Danelle's risky behaviour continues and their friendship crumbles. Chris experiences frustration, helplessness and anger as she watches Danelle careen wildly between mania and depression. Chris is unsure about how to help Danelle, but she receives her best advice from Jack: "You're a great friend Chris," he tells me. "Just stick close and let her know that you're there for her."

     Diersch navigates the uncomfortable subject of teenage mental illness in a realistic manner that can be easily understood by young readers. At the same time, she explores family dynamics through Chris's stormy encounters with her younger sister, Katie, and her distant relationship with her parents. The complicated affairs of Jack's blended family also add depth to this portrayal of the evolving world of a young adult.

     For a short novel, Ceiling Stars covers a lot of ground. Parents, teachers and teenagers can be both entertained and informed by Diersch's straightforward and sometimes amusing handling of this sensitive subject.


Susan Rose is a parent and teacher in Winnipeg, MB.



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