Bertie has grown up in the Theatre Illuminata. She doesn’t really know how she ended up there, except for some vague memories about a Mistress of Revels bringing her to the door as a toddler. But from that moment on, she has spent her life in the living theater, surrounded by the Players—all of the characters from all of the plays ever written. Some of them are annoying, like the fairies Peasblossom, Moth, Cobweb, and Mustardseed who never seem to leave Bertie alone. Others are just odd, like Ophelia who drowns herself ever night and seems to enjoy it. And then of course there is Nate, the young, burly sailor from The Little Mermaid who Bertie is just a little bit in love with. But the problem is, Bertie is not a Player. She isn’t in the Management or Stage Crew either. Bertie is just a girl who seems to get into mischief when left to her own devices. When the Theater Manager threatens to throw her out, she must find a way to become indispensible—and try to stop The Tempest’s Ariel from thwarting her plans.
Although the writing is clunky and many of the characters flat and predictable, the concept of Eyes Like Stars is engaging, especially for someone who has done theatre and knows many of the plays (mostly Shakespeare) from which jokes are drawn. One moment I particularly enjoyed was Macbeth contemplating a buffet table (“Is this a doughnut which I see before me?”), then running off shrieking at the sight of raspberry jelly. Mantchev also takes advantage of the complexities of Shakespeare’s characters, particularly Ariel the fairy-slave, when weaving her plot. Aside from the quirky theatre-based humor, Eyes Like Stars is a coming of age story, as Bertie tries to discover and cultivate her talents to make a difference in her world. Her story is concluded in the sequel, Perchance to Dream. Both books will primarily interest an audience of junior high and high school girls.