Modern Lit: Cage of Stars, by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Cage of Stars
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Swans are Mormons, living a simple, fulfilling life in rural Utah. Twelve year old Ronnie is playing hide and seek with her two younger sisters, but when they fail to search for her, Ronnie faces a horrific scene; the little girls have been brutally murdered. Cage of Stars is narrated throughout from her perspective. The first half recounts the family’s plunge into a year of bottomless grief. With the passage of time, her parent decide they must forgive the killer before they can move on, but Ronnie, outraged, refuses to participate, and separates herself emotionally from her parents. The second part of the story centers upon the now sixteen year old Ronnie’s secret quest for vengeance. Until nearly the end of the novel, it remains unclear as to whether Ronnie will be able to attain her goals and find some peace.

Ronnie is an unlikely protagonist. While the choices she makes might be attainable by someone much more mature, it’s difficult to picture a teen being able to see them through. Her thinking remains that of an intelligent but headstrong and impulsive mid-teen. But she is certainly a memorable character, as are her parents and best friend. Mrs. Desmond, an older woman who befriends Ronnie, is also interesting, but her character could have been developed so much more deeply. The sections covering Ronnie’s training as an EMT are absorbing, and provide some relief from her obsession for what she sees as justice.

Cage of Stars well composed, compelling its readers to keep turning those pages to discover Ronnie’s – and the murderer’s – ultimate fate. Not a run-of-the-mill coming of age tale by any means.

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