Hrdlitschka, Shelley. Sun Signs. Orca, 2005. ISBN 978-1551433387 195 pp. $7.95
Told in emails, journal entries and horoscopes, this story of a group of distance learners helping a ‘net friend with her science project tackles the adage that “on the internet, everyone is a dog.” Fifteen-year-old cancer patient Kayleigh is a Gemini who writes letters to her twin on another plane (one that she isn’t eager to join). She convinces her professor to let her study astrology and asks her fellow online classmates, all Leos, to track their horoscopes and report back to her as to the accuracy of the predictions.
Mixing issues of identity and mortality, Hrdlitschka shows that everyone has secrets to hide. Friendships develop and are challenged as truths are revealed, and two of the three teens don’t take the project seriously, skewing the results and testing the scientific method Kayleigh is required to follow. As an entertaining and lighter subplot, Kayleigh tries to determine her professor’s sign through process of elimination.
The author’s choice to make the emails realistic by interspersing a few slang terms and abbreviations is uneven and inauthentic (either use “u” or you, but stop having the same character alternate – either spell it out, or don’t! Argh!). Still, the story is engrossing and unpredictable. Kayleigh frequently calls for standard or “school” English for the reports she demands, and her journaling is always clear-voiced and her letters and emails to an astrologer who never writes back are heartbreaking. Lurlene McDaniel fans will enjoy this more complex, yet ultimately lighter fare.
Review by Beth Gallaway