Hanging in the Stars starts off when Andrew accepts workout lessons from one of the toughest neighborhood guys, Cruz. In return, Andrew begins to tutor Cruz’s younger sister, Maya, in English. Bonding over Shakespeare, fourteen-year-olds Andrew and Maya are immediately attracted to one another, despite their differing personalities and social backgrounds. Throughout the course of the book, the two learn more about each other and face many obstacles as they strive to stay together. Most of the book is devoted to illustrating Andrew's character developments, as the boy exits his comfort zone by becoming more involved with the Cruz’s lives. Ultimately, the teenagers must decide for themselves if the consequences are worth the price of their relationship.
I was intrigued by the author's ability to create a realistic, but enjoyable, picture of the high school setting and characters. However, I found myself often struggling with the romantic aspect of the book. I found the young lovers naïve and their blind attraction superficial. The way the book parallels the romance in William Shakespeare’s most renowned play, “Romeo and Juliet,” made the book more predictable. I felt the plot could stand alone, without any literary allusions. Regardless, I praise the author for highlighting controversial issues in her first novel, including the perils illegal immigrants face and child abuse. The author did a fantastic job in bringing out raw, attention-grabbing emotion, while shedding the light on issues concerning people with disadvantaged backgrounds. Not many YA books I have encountered have brought sufficient awareness to such a pressing issue as well as Pat Sassone managed to do in this novel. Overall, I found the book suitable for anyone who enjoys a high school romance, paired with real-life tension and action.