And the Stars Were Burning Brightly

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly


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?

Our Review

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly was an absorbing contemporary novel tackling issues such as cyber bullying, suicide and the grief felt by those left behind, and the darker side of social media. The author dealt with all of these topics in a compassionate and realistic way, perhaps because of her own experiences.

The book begins and ends with a note from the author on her own experiences with bullying and suicidal feelings, both of which appear to have influenced her writing.

Al was a bright and talented young man with a loving family so what caused him to think that suicide was his only option? That is the question playing on fifteen-year-old Nate’s mind after the death of his big brother Al.

Struggling with his own feelings of guilt and anger Nate desperately feels like he need to find out what drove him to do what he did.

During his search he meets Megan, a friend of Al’s who is also suffering with her own feelings of guilt. Together they try to ensure Al is remembered in the right way.

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly was a real tear-jerker. I lost count of the times I welled up. I didn’t feel like the author was making it emotive for the sake of it though. I think the reason it was such an emotional read is that it was so easy to empathise with Nate and Megan.  

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly was written from multiple POV – Al, Nate and Megan. I liked that the author chose to include Al’s thoughts at the beginning of each chapter, I felt this helped the reader keep him in the forefront of their mind.

“I thought of me and Nate on the boxing-gym roof. Me and my little bro up on that roof, and my chance to tell him everything, but not being able to find the right words.

Then I sat back and prayed that the ride wouldn’t stop. Because I knew that when I did it wouldn’t be a neutron star anymore. I’d just be Al.

Al who was nothing.

Al who wanted to disappear.

Al who wanted to be up there instead…where nothing can touch you and all you know is helium and nitrogen and dust.”

One thing I thought the author captured accurately was the pain, anger and regret Nate felt after Al’s death and was unable to express.

“I turn over in the dark and wait for it to stop hurting. Not the kinda hurt when someone gives you a dead arm in school and you laugh your head off, pretending it doesn’t sting, even though it kills. This is a different hurt. One that seems to come from inside and pull down on me. Like all these different parts of me slipping away, and I can do nothing to stop it. It’s this hurt that takes over. That splits me right down the middle. That reminds me every minute that Al aint here, and there’s nothing I can do to change it.”

One of the very best things the author did in writing And the Stars Were Burning Brightly was to emphasise the need for young men to talk.

Another issue that was brought to light in this book was the way people negatively react to certain things, such as living on a council estate.

“People are always saying how much of a dump Wythenshaw is. That it is chavvy or proper rough and how you can’t even go to the shops for milk without getting stabbed. Which is a load of rubbish. Al would always say that, if anything, he felt lucky to be from one of the biggest council estates in Europe ‘cos it also had so much history. Looking at his Insta makes me think that maybe I’d taken it for granted. Cos Al was able to look closely and find all this good stuff and capture it. People only ever talk about the bad things around her. No one ever talks about how green it is, or how people look out for each other, how everyone on our estate helped pay for dad’s funeral.”

Despite the topics covered I felt it was ultimately a hope filled book. I think it is going to be massive and deservedly so.


Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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