CAGE OF STARS begins with a brutal double murder in a small Mormon community in Cedar City, Utah. Veronica (Ronnie) Swan is only twelve-years-old when she finds the dead bodies of her two younger sisters. The meticulous description of the young bodies is the most emotional part of this book.
The first part of the story shows how the Swan family struggles with the aftermath. As the family members grieve, they must deal with prying eyes and nosy journalists. The Swan family is dealt a second blow when the court decides that the killer, Scott Early, has a mental illness. Instead of imprisonment, he is sentenced to a short term in a mental institution.
A few years pass, and Ronnie's parents make an unconventional decision. They decide that they will confront Early and forgive him. At this point, you might wonder if the parents have lost their minds. Yet, Author Jacquelyn Mitchard presents this section with calm authority. She doesn't preach, but she does show how and why Ronnie's parents reach this decision.
Fast-forward to Ronnie at age seventeen. She moves to San Diego, and she studies to become an emergency medical technician. She chooses San Diego for the beautiful city and the mild climate, but that's not the only reason. After minimal searching, she finds the location of Scott Early and his new family.
As she studies how to save lives, Ronnie plans an unbelievable plan of revenge. A part of you wonders how she could think of such a thing. However, a part of you understands why she would choose that method of vengeance. The ending may surprise some readers, and it may disappoint others. Even if you don't agree with the resolution, the book will definitely make you think.
I read CAGE OF STARS in two days. Ronnie's voice remains authentic. You see her progress from a confused twelve-year-old to a determined yet naive seventeen-year-old. CAGE OF STARS has all the elements of a good drama: plot, tension, characters, and suspense. Somewhere a big-budget movie studio should be working on an adaptation of this book to film.