Stars in Your Eyes
by Kacen Callender
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Pub Date 10 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 22 Dec 2023
The National Book Award-winning author of Felix Ever After delivers a beautifully tender story of two grumpy/sunshine, fake-dating actors navigating their love story both on and offscreen—perfect for fans of Casey McQuiston and Alexis Hall.
Logan Gray is Hollywood's bad boy—a talented but troubled actor who the public loves to hate. Mattie Cole is an up‑and‑coming golden boy, adored by all but plagued by insecurities.
When Logan and Mattie are cast as leads in a new romantic film, Logan claims that Matt has “zero talent,” sending the film’s publicity into a nosedive. To create positive buzz, the two are persuaded into a fake‑dating scheme—but as the two actors get to know their new characters, real feelings start to develop.
As public scrutiny intensifies and old wounds resurface, the two must fight for their relationship and their love.
A heartfelt, hopeful, and nuanced story about identity, healing, and growth.
A Note From the Publisher
Especially wen exploring painful topics, I understand that it can sometimes feel invalidating when a portrayal of trauma does not reflect your own. While many of these experiences are personal, I want to acknowledge that not everyone's response to trauma is the same. Please, take care of yourself while reading.
Publisher Weekly's Top 10 Romances of Fall 2023
Publisher Weekly's Top 10 Romances of Fall 2023
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Available on NetGalley
Thank you Forever Publishing and Netgalley for this eARC, these opinions are my own. I’ve read a few of Kacen Callender’s books and I’ve loved them and I’ve waited to read Stars In Your Eyes for so long! This story is told from dual pov’s with some chapters being told from outside areas! Mattie wants to act and has just been given his opportunity at a leading role. The problem is he’ll be opposite Logan Gary who’s gone on record as saying he thinks Mattie can’t act. There’s also Mattie anxiety, shame, and need to impress. Logan Gray is the actor everybody loves to paint as the villain of Hollywood, he might as well embrace that role right? Amid yet another sex tape and cheating scandal he needs something to boost his image or risk losing his career. So when the producers suggest the two fake date the agree. But when you “hate” each other how does that even work? As they begin to spend more time together could something more be building? Is Logan really who everyone thinks he is? Can Mattie overcome his shame and need to please? Readers will find themselves in a heartbreaking cycle with this one! You’ll root for them, cry with them, and heal with them! This book is a good reminder that what you see is not always the whole picture, especially among the famous! A sweet story that also deals with difficult trauma and how that can impact people, especially when unaddressed! I loved Mattie and Logan who put me through so many feels! I can’t wait to read it again!
Y'all, this book kinda broke me. It wasn't what I was expecting and I struggled with how the story played out. And while this threw me a bit, ultimately I really loved the story. The writing is incredible and the story is good too. I love how the author pulled in glimpses of fan content and social media posts. You almost feel pulled into the story from more than the main characters' perspectives. Matt and Logan are great characters and while the supporting characters aren't phenomenal, it also speaks to the film industry. The whole book essentially criticizes the film industry and how fame puts ridiculous standards and targets on the backs of the famous by society. I enjoyed that part too.
Anyway, I recommend this book and am thankful Netgalley allowed me to read it in exchange for an honest review.
There are going to be a lot of people who pick this book up and discover it's not for them. Some will be people who prefer a strict romance novel structure with particular beats. Others will be lured in by the comparisons to Alexis Hall and Casey McQuiston, expecting a commercial rom-com for the masses. That is not what this book is. It's intense and deals with very heavy subjects (child sexual abuse, rape, and addiction, just to name a few) while using the general concept of a celebrity fake dating romance to examine fame and identity and so much more. If I'm being honest, grouping it in with commercial successes on the back copy may end up doing this book a disservice by setting up expectations that absolutely won't be met.
So my ask for anyone reading this book is to set those expectations aside. If you can't, this is probably not the book for you. If you can let yourself sink into this story, though, you will be treated to an incredibly thoughtful and compassionate story that I'd bet you can relate to on some level.
I personally loved it and have a lot more thoughts than I can currently put into this review. It has my angst reader stamp of approval and my mental health professional stamp of approval.
RATING: 4.25/5 STARS
Kacen Callender is back, this time with an adult celebrity romance! Similar to FELIX EVER AFTER (one of my favorite YA novels of all time), STARS IN YOUR EYES strikes the balance between the themes of romance and coming-of-age/personal growth beautifully. The novel delves quite deeply into mental health, trauma, abuse, and recovery and what that looks like in the context of building a relationship. Callender's writing style is straightforward, honest, and vulnerable. This was an enjoyable read with sweet ending.
I knew very early on that this would become an instant favorite. I flew through it in a day, which is the best feeling when you find a book like that.
The story jumps directly into the action, and right off the bat I was intrigued by both of the protagonists. That intrigue blossomed into love as I got to know them, and I can say they haven’t left my head since finishing the book.
This story deals with a number of heavy topics, all forewarned by the author. One of my favorite elements of this story is that it doesn’t shy away from the harsher realities of living as a survivor of abuse. Nothing is sugar coated or glossed over, nobody is instantly healed by the magic of love. The author shows a very human, very flawed, very messy portrayal of trauma recovery that I don’t see often reflected in media.
On a different note, I also really appreciated the way intimacy and sexuality was handled on page. It wasn’t fade-to-black, but it also wasn’t overtly smutty, instead striking a balance that just felt very real and honest (including the aftermath of the act).
I was extremely satisfied with the way this book wrapped up and the clever formats used throughout to tell the story.
I will definitely be saving a spot on my bookshelf for Logan and Mattie when the official book is released in October.
WOW. what a book. it’s presented as a trope-filled romance but it’s so much more. it’s a raw, authentic story about healing, self worth, and communication between people who love each other.
i cannot stress this enough: please check out the content warnings before reading this!
the hollywood aspects were some of my favorite parts. movies are so magical to me and stories based in that world will always have a place in my heart.
Mattie and Logan are two incredible protagonists. they’re so opposite but share a lot of the same goals. Logan especially has a rough go, but his story is important. and Mattie’s emotional arc is really great and grounded in finding what’s best for you.
this book has:
✅ fake dating
✅ hollywood romance
✅ dual POV
among other things.
i really enjoyed this. i was expecting something else but got an entirely deeper story.
You don’t want to miss this one.
Synopsis: Logan Gray is Hollywood's bad boy—a talented but troubled actor who the public loves to hate. Mattie Cole is an up‑and‑coming golden boy, adored by all but plagued by insecurities. When Logan and Mattie are cast as leads in a new romantic film, Logan claims that Matt has “zero talent,” sending the film’s publicity into a nosedive. To create positive buzz, the two are persuaded into a fake‑dating scheme—but as the two actors get to know their new characters, real feelings start to develop. As public scrutiny intensifies and old wounds resurface, the two must fight for their relationship and their love.
The synopsis may read as your typical Hollywood enemies-to-lovers fake dating romance but be forewarned – this book is not a lighthearted read.
Stars In Your Eyes tackles the journey of what it’s like to love and be in relationships when you have experienced trauma, rejection, shame, and more. What it’s like to try and heal and love yourself when the world has tried to tell you who you are.
The book has a unique format – Mattie and Logan’s POVs are interwoven with memoir excerpts, smutty fanfiction, tv interview transcripts, filming schedules, fan Youtube videos and blogposts, and more. These various interludes give perspective to the intense pressure that stardom can put on someone, especially when facing colorism, homophobia, biphobia, and other industry biases.
I would like to emphasize the CWs for sexual assault and r*pe. It occurs both on and off-page and could be very triggering for some readers. Other CWs include:
Graphic: Emotional abuse
Moderate: Biphobia, Drug use, Homophobia
Minor: Adult/minor relationship, Drug abuse, Infidelity
Disability rep: CPTSD
What do you get when you have two actors who hate each other but need to promote their film peacefully?
FAKE DATING! TEARS! ANGST! Sex!
And really a movie I wish I could watch, both this book as a movie, and the movie in the book as a movie…
That went really meta.
This book hurt. Oh boy did it hurt. My ereader is lucky to have survived it with the well full of tears that I cried.
It is not an easy read, but it is a worthwhile one. Trust me.
Logan and Mattie will not disappoint you, except for when they do, but they make up for it.
Mattie is a warm, wholesome type it seems at first, and I do mean right at first. That’s his Hollywood image, but that is not who he is in his soul and I love him for it. Because that wholesomeness? Well it only seems to last as long as someone doesn’t need his help, or his protection.
Logan? He’s the tabloid guy. You know the one, the one in every tabloid doing every single thing wrong. Even if he isn’t. The one that makes you shake your head and furrow your brow and wonder how they’re still getting work.
But that’s not all he is, because appearances are deceiving, and both Logan and Mattie have their scars to bare, they just hide them in very different ways.
This was a super interesting read because of it. They are so different, but yet there are enough similarities there to keep you yearning and hoping that it works out.
As for whether it does or not? Well, you’ll just have to read the book.
I have read YA books by Kacey Callender but “Stars in Your Eyes” blew them out of the water! Callender created characters who have enough depth that you care about them and empathize with what they’re going through even when they are making mistakes or hurting those around them. While there is sexual violence and trauma as a part of this book, it isn’t leaned on to create drama or dismissed as something you can just get over. This balance is very hard to strike and Callender did it masterfully. I didn’t expect the book to continue past the main characters deciding they can’t be together but I appreciated the well thought out chapters after that almost felt like a well fleshed out epilogue.
I look forward to reading more adult books from Callender in the future!
Where do I even begin? I’ve never read a book like Stars in Your Eyes, but I’m so glad that I have. Kacen Callender has crafted a wonderful and important book that covers the beautiful sides of relationships while drawing a spotlight to deep and meaningful themes like trauma and mental health.
We follow Logan and Mattie through a sometimes tumultuous movie set (and beginnings of a staged relationship). Things quickly change when the two leads fall in love and the reader is introduced the real sides of these “fake” lovers. I want to give a special shout out to the details of the minutia of making a movie (the sets, PR and press tour).
The book isn’t perfect (there’s a bit of exposition happening in the side chapters - which focus on a memoir, YouTubers, social media) but I think it’s a well crafted novel I’m looking forward to folks reading. Check it out if you like “haters to lovers” types of stories like Red, White and Royal Blue or Boyfriend Material. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Forever, for an advanced review copy.
I received an e-ARC from NetGalley, thank you!
I honestly loved this book a lot more than I thought I would and may have cried when it was over. It’s a beautiful story about learning how to cope and accept one’s trauma and the journey associated with that. It’s also a reminder that most of Hollywood isn’t real. What we see isn’t what really happens (and there’s food and bad associated with that). The only thing I really didn’t like about this book was the insertions of clips from future parts of the story. There’s one particular instance that revealed a big spoiler and I think it kind of detracted from the actual moment. I loved these characters even in their rough forms and it was great to see them both learn and grow as people.
𝘼 𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙛𝙪𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙩𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙬𝙤 𝙜𝙧𝙪𝙢𝙥𝙮/𝙨𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙚, 𝙛𝙖𝙠𝙚-𝙙𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙨 𝙣𝙖𝙫𝙞𝙜𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙞𝙧 𝙡𝙤𝙫𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮 𝙗𝙤𝙩𝙝 𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙨𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙚𝙣.
I have not read anything by this author, but I have heard nothing but amazing things about Felix Ever After… so I was so delighted when I was able to read this book early.
One of my favorite celebrity romances is The Charm Offensive and this one was giving off those vibes. We have a grumpy/sunshine and fake-dating trope between two actors on and off the screen.
Logan Gray is our bad boy of Hollywood, while Mattie Cole is our golden boy. While I adored both characters, I had such a soft spot for Mattie. He was perfectly written and relatable on so many levels.
There was so much hurting and healing behind the scenes from both characters, and I couldn’t stop getting emotional and attached to them. I genuinely cared for their relationship.
There’s such a great representation of learning to love yourself and it was beautifully displayed. I honestly can’t wait to read anything by this author again, because this one blew my mind. It was so emotional and sweet at the same time.
I knew early on this was going to be an amazing book. I’m glad it kept my interest throughout the book, and again, these characters were just so fleshed out and relatable: the attraction between the two, the tension, the display of love, and the ultimate sacrifice to finding your true self.
I completely adored this book and can’t wait to recommend it more often. It’s a great m/m romance, but it also deals with so much more than just your typical love story. These characters were absolutely well written and their chemistry was so good. This is definitely a must-read book!
Thank you so much NetGalley and Forever for the review eARC in exchange for my honest review!
•𝗧𝗪/𝗖𝗪: Sexual Assault, Emotional Abuse, Rape, Biphobia, Drug Use, and Homophobia
I love a straightforward romance novel, a queer romance novel, and a Hollywood romance novel. This is all three--plus a little bit of rivals to lovers (not QUITE enemies, but not quite not!), with the complex and caring characterization that Kacen Callender is known for. It was a pleasure to read, with some leaps forward that let you know that things were going to get more complicated for a while. I really appreciated the generosity with which everyone got to make mistakes and be worthy of love anyway.
This was such a powerful read. I went into this thinking it would be a funny, easy-going storyline with the fake dating trope between a fallen-from-grace Hollywood bad boy and his up-and-coming golden boy costar, but Stars in Your Eyes surprised me by being much more than that. The book had many layers that demonstrated the effects of trauma, sexual assault, and the challenges of trying to heal and work on oneself. Told in dual POVs between the main characters, Mattie and Logan, my heart broke many times throughout the book as both characters shared their deepest and darkest insecurities in their respective chapters.
The only thing that I wasn’t a fan of were the “gossip blog” pages, the “YouTube” vlogger pages and the chapters with Tweets (or are they called Xs now? Idk?). I found them to be a bit distracting but they’re staples in books that feature a celebrity romance or celebrities in general, so I get it. Other than that, I really enjoyed Stars in Your Eyes and I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy later this fall!
Thank you @readforeverpub and @netgalley for dropping this eARC in my inbox!
Stars in Your Eyes officially releases on October 10. Can’t wait to celebrate its official pub day!
I was absolutely blown away by this book. The author handled incredibly tough topics with great care without making the characters feel solely defined by their past traumas.
It’s so easy to fall in love with Mattie Cole. He’s a super sweet Southern “golden boy”. Relatively new to the acting scene, Mattie is looking to make his big break even if that means compromising his morals and entering a fake relationship with Logan Gray.
Logan Gray is the stereotypical bad boy. Sex, drugs, and alcohol have played a large role in his adult life, so agreeing to fake-date Mattie Cole could be good for his image and lead to great publicity for the movie the pair are acting in.
As Mattie and Logan get to know one another they start to develop real feelings for each other and suddenly their relationship isn’t so fake anymore. Under public scrutiny, Mattie and Logan must decide what they’re willing to sacrifice for their happiness.
This book will not be for everyone, and that’s okay. For some it may be easy to villainize Logan and wonder why Mattie would ever get involved with him, but once you understand Logan’s past trauma the relationship starts to make more “sense”.
We really need more books which feature characters who have experienced trauma. Everyone deserves to see themself represented in literature, even if it’s not necessarily “easy to swallow”.
This is a book that will stay on my mind for quite some time.
"Stars in Your Eyes" by Kacen Callender is a beautifully written and emotionally resonant story that captures the essence of love, identity, and personal growth. With its well-crafted characters and exploration of complex themes, this novel is a compelling addition to the romance genre.
The story follows Hollywood actors Logan Gray and Mattie Cole, whose initial animosity quickly evolves into a captivating fake-dating scheme when they're cast as leads in a new romantic film. Logan's bad-boy reputation clashes with Mattie's golden-boy image, leading to tension and misunderstandings that impact both their onscreen chemistry and their offscreen interactions. As they navigate the challenges of their public personas, the characters find themselves drawn to each other in unexpected ways.
Kacen Callender excels at character development, creating protagonists who are multi-dimensional and relatable. Logan and Mattie are complex individuals dealing with their own insecurities and past traumas, making them easy to empathize with. The slow progression of their relationship from animosity to affection is depicted with sensitivity and authenticity, making their emotional journey feel both genuine and heartwarming.
The novel also delves into deeper themes of identity and healing. Both characters confront their personal demons and learn to embrace their true selves, which adds depth to their individual growth arcs. The exploration of public perception and the impact of media scrutiny on personal lives adds an additional layer of complexity to the story, making it feel relevant and thought-provoking.
Kacen Callender's writing is evocative and vivid, painting a vivid picture of the characters' experiences and emotions. The pacing of the story is well-balanced, allowing for both moments of introspection and moments of romantic tension.
"Stars in Your Eyes" is a heartfelt and nuanced novel that tackles important themes while delivering a heartwarming and engaging romance. Readers will be captivated by the chemistry between Logan and Mattie, as well as the authenticity of their personal journeys. This book is a must-read for fans of character-driven romance stories that delve into the complexities of human emotions and relationships.
Thank you to Forever Publishing and NetGalley for the free eARC. This is my honest opinion.
I read this in one sitting, breaking only to take care of bodily functions. I loved Mattie, and I wanted to give Logan the biggest hug in the whole world. This was phenomenally written (even the AO3 cringe writing), and the depictions of CPTSD, anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt resonated deeply with me.
I loved the storyline, the tropes, and the fact that they both had to adjust and mature. The side chapters with other people commenting, gushing over the celebrities rang so true to things I've read on social media, so the memoir bits from Mattie's pov were a welcome intermission to all the toxicity. This is a story that makes you think it is a romance, but to say that this is the only plot ignores all the important things that happen.
Logan's backstory rings true, and while it doesn't excuse his actions, it does help explain them. I was cheering him along with every step he made to get out of the hole he had made and actively booed the people who wanted to keep him where he was. Mattie, even with his golden retriever personality, has a lot going on, and I loved him so much.
5 out of 5 stars, 2.5 out of 5 🌶 for the spice level. Highly recommend for those who enjoyed Red, White and Royal Blue, The Charm Offensive, and Boyfriend Material.
This review is long overdue. I was privileged to get an eArc of this book but was unable to finish it before pub day on 10/10. Life got in the way and I couldn't read much the last several weeks. But thank you to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for the chance to read this.
This book. Holy shit, this book. This is without a doubt one of my favorites of 2023. Which comes as little to no surprise since Felix, Ever after was also a big favorite.
Kacen is an incredible author and this story is just beautiful. It highlights so realistically how trauma can impact relationships. As someone who's worked in mental health for 7 years and has their own struggles, this was so amazing to read. It was amazing to not only read an in depth depiction of trauma and it's impact, but the path to healing. Some nuggets of very legitimate wisdom weaved into this too.
This book was just so incredible. I am so grateful it exists. I feel like this is what some other very big romance authors try to accomplish when using trauma in their books but have definitely not executed well.
This entire book was just a gift. It was so easy to read and to get into the characters. Both the main characters had traits that I could connect to. I wish side characters got a lil more attention but this story wasn't about them. It was so neatly wrapped up too, meaning that there's no lingering expectation for more from these characters even though I loved them so much. I am just over the moon about this.
I desperately need to buy a copy when I can afford it now for my shelves and to lend out.
Kacen definitely knocked it out of the park with this adult queer romance debut.
So, so wonderful.
Wow. What started off as your "usual" fake dating grumpy/sunshine romance developed into something deeply emotional and meaningful. There are so many powerful topics that are touched on in Stars in Your Eyes and done in an impressive way, considering this is a "celebrity romance." Kacen Callender has a new fan forsure. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the free advance copy.