Book Review: And The Stars Were Burning Brightly

Danielle Jawando

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

published: 5th March 2020
spoilers? no


An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.

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?

You can spend all your life tryna work out why someone does summat. Tryna find answers and, in the end, none of it matters. That’s just people.

Galley provided by publisher

Do you ever read something and sort of hate it because it makes you so incredibly sad but also incredibly angry at the same time? Well that was And the Stars Were Burning Brightly for me.

The book opens a couple of days after Nate’s brother, Al, has committed suicide. The story alternates between Nate’s POV and Megan’s, Al’s friend. Both of them want to find out why Al decided to kill himself, Nate retracing his footsteps, and Megan wanting to memorialise Al.

First things first, this book near about made me cry multiple times. In fact, the first time I picked it up, I couldn’t read past chapter 1 because it was making me cry. A lesson for us all: do not read this book in public. There are stretches where you think, okay, I can do this dry-eyed, and then all of a sudden it hits you again, and you’re bawling. Which should definitely have been evident from the blurb, but there are books that make you vaguely sad about it, and then there are books that have you crying like a baby. This falls comfortably into the latter category.

But to make you cry so much, you have to have the right characters, and boy are these characters excellent. It took me about two chapters for me to be fully invested in them (and also crying over them, as previously discussed). I spend about 90% of the book wanting to hug them. I mean, obviously except the ones who you’re supposed to like less. They made me too angry for hugging. But if books are supposed to make you feel things (and not just frustration when they’re not great), then this book does just that.

I sort of don’t have anything more to say about this book (except. Tears), but if you read any single UKYA book this year, let it be this one.

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