On My Bookshelf: In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner

July 02, 2018

In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner is a bit disorienting at first, but intentionally so. Klee has just entered a psychiatric hospital, is heavily medicated, and is trying to piece together the events that landed him there. Through his therapy sessions, Klee's relationships with his parents, particularly his father who recently committed suicide, and Sarah, Klee's love interest, are revealed. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Seventeen-year-old Klee’s father was the center of his life. He introduced Klee to the great museums of New York City and the important artists on their walls, he told him stories made of myths and magic. Until his death.

Now, forced to live in the suburbs with his mom, Klee can’t help but feel he’s lost all the identifying parts of himself—his beloved father, weekly trips to the MoMA, and the thrumming energy of New York City. That is until he meets wild and free Sarah in art class, with her quick smiles and jokes about his “brooding.” Suddenly it seems as if she’s the only thing that makes him happy. But when an act of betrayal sends him reeling, Klee lands in what is bitingly referred to as the “Ape Can,” a psychiatric hospital for teens in Northhollow.

While there, he undergoes intensive therapy and goes back over the pieces of his life to find out what was real, what wasn’t, and whether he can stand on his own feet again. Told in alternating timelines, leading up to the event that gets him committed and working towards getting back out, Gae Polisner’s In Sight of Stars is a gorgeous novel told in minimalist strokes to maximal effect, about what makes us fall apart and how we can put ourselves back together again.
In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner is a bit disorienting at first, but intentionally so. Klee has just entered a psychiatric hospital, is heavily medicated, and is trying to piece together the events that landed him there. Through his therapy sessions, Klee's relationships with his parents, particularly his father who recently committed suicide, and Sarah, Klee's love interest, are revealed. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: In Sight of Stars is a bit disorienting at first, but intentionally so. Klee has just entered a psychiatric hospital, is heavily medicated, and is trying to piece together the events that landed him there. Through his therapy sessions, Klee's relationships with his parents, particularly his father who recently committed suicide, and Sarah, Klee's love interest, are revealed. 

Klee is one of just four patients at the psychiatric hospital for teens and while his experience at such an exclusive facility might not be representative of mental health care, I appreciated how normal all of the patients seemed and the kindness of the staff. Too often these depictions are sensationalized in books and film. I also thought his road to recovery was realistic. Medication in combination with solo and group therapy were utilized and even when he was released from the facility, he was self-admittedly still fragile.

Classroom application: Because of the mature themes in the novel (sex, drug and alcohol use, suicide/mental health), I would recommend this one to high school and up. If students are put off by the start of the novel, encourage them to keep reading. Things will start to make sense.

The novel would be a great addition to literature circles themed around the issue of mental health (you can find some other title suggestions here) or around teenage relationships. Klee and Sarah like each other, but Klee's intensity and his issues with his parents make it difficult for Sarah to have a relationship with him. The novel would be an example for teens of how to deal (or rather how not to deal) with a boyfriend or girlfriend who needs more support from a relationship than the other can provide. It certainly reinforces the idea that teens, even if they are well-intentioned, can't "fix" someone who needs help from a professional. 

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of In Sight of Stars for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

You Might Also Like

0 comments