Fiction – paperback; Verve Books; 275 pages; 2022.
Question: What is the best way to describe Canadian writer Laurie Petrou’s latest novel Stargazer?
Answer: Rich, white girls behaving badly.
It’s a relatively trashy read, but it’s compelling in the same way “rubber-neckers” find a car crash by the side of the road compelling. I ate it up in two afternoons over Easter.
Set in the 1990s, the story is about a super-close female friendship between two teenagers that morphs into something a bit more dangerous and obsessive. Think Single White Female meets Heavenly Creatures and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
Diana Martin and Aurelle Taylor live next door to each other in Toronto and go to the same school, but they are not friends.
Aurelle’s mother, Marianne, is a fashion designer whose brand MT (aka “empty”) is beloved by young people across the world. She’s regularly featured on TV and in celebrity news outlets, and she uses Aurelle, who is petite and pretty and blonde, to market her products even though Aurelle would much rather hide under a rock: she hates having a famous mother.
Meanwhile, Diana, who is starved of love and attention from her own parents and badly bullied by her older brother, spies on her neighbours from her bedroom window and desperately wishes she could join the Taylor family. Fate eventually steps in (via two personal tragedies) and the two become friends. Diana spends so much time at the Taylor house, she’s regarded as a second daughter.
Later, both attend the picturesque Rocky Barrens University, in the forests of Northern Ontario: Aurelle, to study literature; Diana, to study art. Unlike most of their fellow students who live on campus, the pair move into a share house (which belongs to Diana’s parents) on the other side of a lake, which affords them the privacy to carry out their co-dependent friendship. There are lots of parties, drugs, raves — and sporting endeavours. Diana loves to row and swim and run; Aurelle less so.
But their intertwined lives begin to slowly unravel when Diana gets noticed for her artistic potential: the portraits she has painted of Aurelle could be her ticket to stardom, and Toronto gallery owners and art dealers are lining up to court her. Even Marianne is sitting up and paying attention: could Diana achieve the same level of celebrity success she herself has attained?
Meanwhile, Aurelle is increasingly unhappy about being Diana’s muse and becoming wearisome of the closeness Diana is developing with her mother. She escapes into drugs and alcohol, but everyone seems oblivious to the red flags she is flying.
Of course, it all comes to a dramatic, over-the-top, not very realistic head, but it’s a fun ride to get there.
High-brow literature? No. An entertaining read? Yes. Would I read more by this author? Probably, if the mood was right and I was looking for something fast-paced, well plotted and full of entitled characters.
I’m chalking up Stargazer as a perfect beach or holiday read.