Stella lives in segregated  1932 North Carolina. One late night, Stella sees the Ku Klux Klan (who haven’t been in their community in quite a while) burning a cross at one of their meetings and runs to tell her family. They alert the Black community and the neighbors work together to be on the lookout and keep everyone safe. Meanwhile, Stella’s father and some of the other men want to vote and make a dangerous trip to the polling station with Stella to fight for their rights. Technically, they are allowed to vote, but the white men put up plenty of road blocks and threaten their lives. Basically, this is a historical fiction novel of how Blacks were treated in the segregated South.

Draper tries to move the storyline and give it more than just a historical backdrop by showing that Stella wants to be a news reporter/writer, but she isn’t good at writing yet. I think it was supposed to be about perseverance, but I felt like it was putting Stella down because she is about 11 or 12 and she can barely write full sentences. And the rest of her class is doing addition problems in school. I think that just makes them look bad. I like that Stella wants to be a writer and keeps trying, but the constant spelling corrections interrupt the text, and her actual writing entries aren’t good at all. They are all over the place and don’t follow a storyline or even a diary entry at all. Maybe her last one sounded like a newspaper entry, but the rest were pointless and didn’t further the plot or Stella’s writing skill. If it was to give us inside insight into Stella’s mind, the general narrative did a better job of that.

Speaking of plot, there wasn’t really one. It just felt like a year in the life of a Black girl in the segregated South. Draper could have done a lot with key points like when Stella saved the KKK leader’s daughter from drowning, but she let that fall flat. All Stella did was save her, they talked like they could be friends, and then Stella yelled at her about her dad and stomped off. Nothing changed with the characters, the plot or the views of any of the community members. Draper could have also included the snake bite incident as a vehicle to change societal views or earn more white community members who see the light, but that didn’t happen either.

A Friendship for Today by Pat McKissack did a much better job of showing the dangers of the KKK and the people who fought against discrimination during that time period with a much more engaging plot and plenty of character development that was missing from Stella by Starlight.