What’s Stars Of Motown Shining Bright all about?:
Two fifteen year old girls have fallen in love with the same man and risk their friendship by both travelling to see him for an evening. However, all three end up getting a lot more than they had bargained for.
What did I think?:
I can’t describe exactly how much I love this collection of short stories, my first experience of the tour de force that is Julie Orringer’s writing. Of course as with other collections, some stories are better than others but in this particular case I think I can say that each story so far has touched me in some way as I was reading. In Stars Of Motown Shining Bright our two main female characters are fifteen year old Lucy (our narrator) and her friend Melissa. I think at school we may have all had a friend like Melissa – supremely confident, perhaps slightly arrogant and extremely emotionally manipulative. Lucy is the quieter sort who always feels a bit inferior in comparison to her friend with her fashionable clothes, general demeanour and complete assuredness in everything she does.
As the story begins, the girls are about to go on a overnight visit to see their mutual friend, Jack Jacob whom they both have a huge crush on. Lucy however is quite excited for a different reason. She feels that she has finally “got one up” on her friend as she has recently lost her virginity to Jack when he came back to their town a little while ago. Lucy can’t wait for Melissa to find out and feels immensely proud that Jack has chosen her as the girl he wants to be with. Perhaps the reader may see this coming but this is not quite the case unfortunately for poor Lucy (yes, I must always champion the underdog!).
Jack Jacob is revealed as the kind of boy you really shouldn’t be touching, even with a ten foot bargepole and, for a time, it seems like the girls will not be able to see him for the slimeball that he most definitely is. Julie Orringer really surprised me by creating a heroine in Lucy that any woman reading this short story will love (and this story could have gone a number of different ways). Lucy does so much more than hold her own though – she grows up within such a short space of time, develops serious self-respect, teaches Jack a brilliant lesson and even manages to “save” Melissa in the process.
I was slightly concerned about where the story may be going when a certain instrument in a glove compartment is mentioned and was on the edge of my seat by the dramatic finale. However, it ended in the most perfect way and should remind all young girls in close friendships that a despicable man who seems to have no concept of decency or how to treat people is not worth the risk or their precious time. There are a lot of themes in this tale which the author explores throughout the entire collection, for example, teenage sexuality, coming of age, friendships and strong, female independence, all of which Julie Orringer writes about with incredible beauty and enthusiasm. Great story, great characters, great message… more please!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night