Danielle Steel has written 48 novels in the past thirty years and each of them has made it
to the top of the Best-Sellers List. Star was her twenty-fourth novel to do so. With the great
quantity of novels that come from Steel, it is almost too easy to group them all together with no
separate identities. And that, it seems, is what happened to Star. By the time of Star's
publication, Steel had already written twenty-three best-sellers, including the novels
Kaleidoscope and Zoya. While Zoya and Star did very well on the best-sellers list, it is safe to
say that Kaleidoscope's reputation proceeded them. Readers seemed to enjoy Kaleidoscope very
much and that lead to the purchasing of Steel's two subsequent novels. So, in terms of
best-sellers, Star becomes grouped in the category of "Best-Seller because of Author
Recognition,"-the popularity of the author and her previous novels being a main reason for its
Steel's novels' popularity is very much dependent on the notoriety of the preceding
novels. Star is an example of a novel whose majority of readers have already read at least one of
Steel's previous novels. The book itself received reviews from each major book review that
gave opinions about the book's lack of characters with substance, about the plot of the book
being too drawn out. Still each of the critics, like the New York Times' Stewart Kellerman, does
mention that "Ms. Steel's fans won't be disappointed" by this book, yet it seems that that is a
common phrase about Steel's novels.
Star is a story of a young girl, Crystal, who after leaving her family's ranch upon the
death of her beloved father, finds fame and fortune in a singing career and reunites with her long
lost love. Star's reviews were good for the most part, yet each of them tended to focus on
Steel's lack of detail in the novel as well as the long drawn-out plot development. Yet at the
same time, Star's reviews, both professional and amateur, are very similar to previous and future
novels'. Reviews from the N.Y. Times and the L.A. Times usually say Steel's grammar could be
better or that her plots could be more detailed, while her readers' reviews range from "this is the
worst" to "this is the best book that I've ever read." The similarities between the reviews gives
evidence of the similarities between the Steel novels-they seem to follow a formula that Steel
uses for all of her novels. Each of Steel's novels consist of a heroine who is very beautiful ,
most of the time unaware of just how beautiful she is- like Star's Crystal, who at fourteen was
"totally unaware of how startlingly beautiful she was" (Steel 2). In each heroine's life, she
suffers a major tragedy whether it be poverty, rape, incest, heartache-the tragedies in Crystal's
life being the death of her father and her rape at the hands of her brother-in-law. Eventually with
the love of a wonderful man, the Danielle Steel heroine will be able to overcome the pain that
she has had to endure and settle down to a life of happily ever after. That formula is used in Star
as well as Zoya and Kaleidoscope, the two novels preceding Star.
The novel that probably led to the popularity of Star is the popular Steel novel,
Kaleidoscope. The story in Kaleidoscope revolves around three sisters who were split up upon
the deaths of their parents and how each of them has led a different life from the other two. A
friend of their deceased father feels that it his duty to reunite the three sisters who are so
oblivious to the others' existence. The three sisters eventually find each other but they must
learn how to face the tragedy of their parents' death and their long separation from each other.
Kaleidoscope, Steel's twenty-first novel, is a great hit among her readers yet her critics'
responses seem to be very similar to critiques of her past and future novels. Many of her reviews
for Kaleidoscope touch on the fact that Steel's heroines are often too beautiful or too successful
or too perfect. Of the novel's eldest sister Hilary, Los Angeles Times critic Karen Stabiner
cynically tells of how Hilary is able to "[survive] incest, rape, abortion, malnutrition, and poverty
to run a television network, meet the perfect man and be reunited with her two equally
successful sisters." She also adds that Kaleidoscope is "the perfect antidote to all those nasty
non-fiction articles and books about how women can't have it all."
It seems, as is evident in Stabiner's review, that critics of Steel's novel feel that often her
heroines are not in such dire straits as the author would have them to be. Yet to the Steel
enthusiast that is not a problem and it seems as if Steel knows that. A review in Publishers
Weekly states that "the pages of Steel's [Kaleidoscope] are packed with an assortment of
one-dimensional characters, each one more broadly sketched than the last." Along with that is a
review by New York Times critic Rosemary L. Bray stating that in this novel, "Ms. Steel...quickly
returns to the traumas that she knows best: rape, incest, abortion, and unfaithful husbands." In
this one statement, Bray has encapsulated the very essence of Steel's popularity.
That popularity led to the success of her next novel, Zoya, the story of a cousin of Czar
Nicholas who escapes persecution by fleeing to Paris and eventually ends up in New York City.
There she loses two husbands and one child, survives the Great Depression, and eventually
becomes a successful business woman. Steel again follows her successful formula. Yet that is
what her fans were expecting. By her twenty-third novel, Steel is already a "blockbuster author,"
meaning that her fans know and like her style and so they will buy anything that she put out.
That is evident in the reviews that Zoya received.
Zoya became a best-seller based on Steel fans going out and buying the novel, yet it does
not seem to be the top critics' reviews that led them to the bookstores. The New York Times
critic William J. Harding says of Zoya:
...[D]espite the topping of political, social and emotional turmoil, it's about as
tasty as a mayonnaise sandwich. This is the kind of novel your grandmother
could read without blushing...[it] is a quaint antidote to those sex-filled novels
about the rich, the rock stars and the Hollywood in-crowd..."Zoya" is a
white-bread epic-harmless, bland, easily digestible.
Los Angeles Times critic Don G. Campbell can't help but comment on how "It's a nice trait on
Zoya's part-this ability to fall in love with the rich men, not the poor ones, entering her life."
Despite what its critics thought, Zoya made it to the top of the best-seller and stayed there for a
good amount of time. Steel's fans bought her twenty-third novel just like they bought the
twenty-two before it. As Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker wrote in his article "The
Science of the Sleeper", "People who buy or watch blockbusters have a clear sense of what they
are going to get: a Danielle Steel novel is always -well, a Danielle Steel novel." Steel's readers
saw the Steel name and bought the novel; they knew what to expect from past experiences with
her novels, whether it was from their own readings of it, from the suggestions of friends, or from
reviews of critics. Those experiences undoubtedly led to the success of her twenty-fourth novel,
Star's reviews were good but not stellar: critics liked the novel for what it would deliver
to Steel's fans. In book reviews from Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Chicago
Tribune, Star was seen as a novel that would not disappoint Steel fans. Yet the critics also
seemed bored by the Steel formula that all of her fans loved so much. Karen Stabiner of the Los
Angeles Times described Steel as "getting a bit weary of the game," commenting on Star's
seemingly overused plot. Critics believed that Steel took too long getting the two central
characters together, yet her fans enjoyed this book just as much as they enjoyed her past novels.
Customer reviews from Amazon.com ranged from complete amazement to utter
disappointment. Yet even with the wide range of feelings for the book, one thing proved is that
the readers are still buying and reading the books, even after a bad encounter with one her past
novels. Here are some examples of that:
Poor Characterizations - 6/2/99
"This is one of Steel's better books (although that's not saying much) but the
characterizations leave something to be desired..."
Danielle Steel's "Star" - 12/25/98
"I found this book to be very disappointing...I don't recommend that you read this
unless you are really a Danielle Steel crazed fan."
Those, however, are the people who are buying most of Danielle Steel's books-her fans that are
crazy about each plot, each heroine, each glamorous life. Yet, as the first review shows, even
the reader who may have been disappointed with her previous novels goes on to read Steel's
following novels, probably in hopes that there will be a novel that they like as much as they liked
the first one that they read.
Star, Zoya, and Kaleidoscope are all best-selling novels written by a best-selling author
renowned for her success. How these books would have done if Danielle Steel hadn't been so
popular is debatable. Yet the fact remains that Steel went on to write twenty-four more novels
and is still writing them to this day. Her Critics judge her for her simple all too-familiar plots
and one dimensional characters at the same time that her readers praise her for writing a story
filled with beautiful women, handsome men, and glamorous lifestyles. Her books fit the same
Danielle Steel formula and so they are basically critiqued the same way. And it is the review of
Kaleidoscope found at BarnesandNoble.com that sums up what most of her critics and probably
most of her fans know already about Steel's books as a whole: "The potentially interesting story
is flawed by awkward sentences and choppy, uneven construction. There is no time for detail or
character development, and one scene follows another abruptly, so that the reader becomes
confused at times. Despite its faults, this will be in demand because of Steel's popularity."
Harding, William J. "In Short." Rev. of Zoya, by Danielle Steel.
New York Times Book Review- 17 July 1988: 20.
Campbell, Don G. "Storytellers." Rev. of Zoya, by Danielle Steel.
Los Angeles Book Review- 26 June 1988.
Steinberg, Sybil. "Forecasts." Rev. of Zoya, by Danielle Steel.
Publishers Weekly- 15 April 1988: 78.
Stabiner, Karen. "Waiting for a Real Man." Rev. of Kaleidoscope,
by Danielle Steel. Los Angeles Book Review- 25 October
Bray, Rosemary L. "In Short." Rev. of Kaleidoscope, by Danielle
Steel. New York Times Book Review- 15 November 1987:
Book Review Index
Brosnahan, John. "Upfront Advance Reviews." Rev. of Star, by
Danielle Steel. BookList- 15 December 1988: 666.
Kellerman, Stewart. Rev. of Star, by Danielle Steel. New York
Times Book Review- 26 March 1989: 16.
Slater, Joyce. Rev. of Star, by Danielle Steel. Chicago Tribune
Books- 12 March 1989: 5.
Stabiner, Karen. "Storytellers." Rev. of Star, by Danielle Steel.
Los Angeles Book Review- 19 February 1989: 8.
Steinberg, Sybil. "Forecasts." Rev. of Star, by Danielle Steel.
Publishers Weekly- 23 December 1988: 67.