Diverse Books, YA Books

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando – ARC Review

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

This book was a really difficult read but it was also an incredible and very important read. Everyone needs to read this but please check trigger warnings before reading.

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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 was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?

It took me a long time to read this book, not because it wasn’t good but because it deals with very difficult and very sensitive topics and I had to take breaks in between reading them. The sensitive topics include bullying and suicide and Danielle dealt with these really well. She doesn’t hold back in showing the reality and consequences of bullying and how it affects the person being bullied and also how it affects their family and friends too.

This book is heart breaking to read as we slowly learn what Al went through, we see how much he loved creating art and all the things he wanted to do in life and how because of cruel classmates he committed suicide and now will never get to achieve any of his dreams and goals in life. It gets more and more horrifying as we learn more and more and it just made me think how absolutely awful it would be for those teens who suffer through this and no one realises anything is wrong.

We see Al’s story from the point of view of his brother Nathan and his friend Megan who are each battling their own issues while also struggling to deal with their grief and complicated feelings about Al and his death. It was really interesting to read the story through their eyes as we get to see Al from two different parts of his life.

Megan was his friend but she has many regrets and also struggles with peer pressure and body image issues. She wishes she had just been open about the fact that she was Al’s friend as he had such a big impact on her life and helped her see that she could go to university and achieve so much more than she thought she was capable of.

Nathan is dealing with so much guilt, he feels guilty about how he felt he wasn’t there for his brother and that he can’t work out why his brother took his own life. It was heartbreaking going on this journey with him where he slowly finds out what was happening in his brothers life and slowly piecing it all together. It was incredibly difficult learning about what Al went through and that he didn’t know how to reach out to someone and suffered in silence and alone.

Danielle’s writing is incredible and despite it being an incredibly difficult topic she did a wonderful job. It was such a real portrayal of what can happen when someone is bullied. This is a book that everyone should read and we all need to have more honest discussions about these issues as they are literally taking lives.

Just please read the trigger warnings before reading.

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