And the Stars Were Burning Brightly
By Danielle Jawando
Published by Simon and Schuster UK Children’s
What it’s about?
From the blurb:
When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al, has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al had so many dreams … so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan decides to retrace Al’s footsteps. As he does, he meets Megan, Al’s former classmate, who is as determined as Nathan to keep Al’s memory alive.
Together they start seeking answers, but will either of them be able to handle the truth about Al’s death when they eventually discover what happened?
An extraordinary novel about loss, understanding and the importance of speaking up when all you want to do is shut down, from an incredible new talent, perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Gayle Foreman, Jennifer Niven and Nikesh Shukla.
What I think?
Wow! This book is gut wrenching and heartbreaking from the first chapter.
Nathan’s family is torn apart by Al’s suicide. Al is a talented artist with a bright future that is going to take him to Cambridge and far away from the Manchester estate where he lives. Nathan is racked with guilt having missed a call from Al just before he died and being unable to save him.
Angry and grieving he tries to work out what was going on in Al’s life. The story that unravels is shocking, and even sadder based on the writer’s own experiences of school.
Nathan’s emotions are raw and beautifully realistic. Moments of normality and happiness are contrasted with grief and overwhelming anger. His growing friendship with Megan is tentative and builds slowly into something genuine and positive. Despite the heartbreak the ending of this book is hopeful and heart-warming.
The level of bullying that is revealed is shocking, but what is more shocking is the casual way the young people involved dismiss the impact of their actions on other people. Hurtful comments are laughed away as being “banter” and the internet and social media are places for bullies to hide. This book shows how far more needs to be done to protect young people and support their mental health.
The relentless peer pressure amongst groups of so called friends blurs the lines between bullies and victims. Some of the people who bully Al are also victims of bullying and nastiness themselves. The desire to fit in to a group and the lengths people will go to do should not be underestimated.
Some of the things Nathan discovers are clear to the reader much sooner, but this doe snot in any detract from the impact they have on the characters when they put the pieces together.
This book is both fantastic and horrific at the same time because of the realism. I will definitely be recommending it 🙂 Thank you Netgalley for the digital copy in return for an honest review.
And the Stars Were Burning Brightly is available from the links below. Or support your local independent book shop – lots have started lockdown delivery services.
Waterstones: click here
Amazon.co.uk: click here