And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando
And the Stars Were Burning Brightly is a powerful read forÂ Key Stage 4 readersÂ andÂ containsÂ themes that readers might find upsetting, including suicide andÂ some scenes ofÂ intense bullying.Â IÂ love the fact that itÂ isÂ set locally, in Wythenshawe.Â Books that deal well these intenseÂ andÂ emotional issues,Â such asÂ Jennifer Nivenâ€™sÂ All the Bright Places,Â are often American.Â Â Â OfÂ course, these struggles are universal, and itÂ could beÂ helpful to read aboutÂ the same issues happeningÂ more locally,Â so that those strugglingÂ donâ€™tÂ feel like they are alone in feeling that way.Â At one point, oneÂ of the charactersÂ has a conversation with a girl from a local grammar school.Â Â This could easily have been our school and the impact of the storyline feels greater for it.Â What would you have done if you had been that person, in that situation?Â
WeÂ followÂ the story of Nathan and Megan, who are brought together following the tragic suicide of Nathanâ€™s brotherÂ Al.Â To his friend Megan and his family, Al seemedÂ to have his life sorted.Â Â He wasÂ talented, ambitious,Â andÂ determinedÂ to leave Wythenshawe to study Art at University.Â He had something to prove, that aÂ blackÂ boy from aÂ councilÂ estate in Wythenshawe, could makeÂ somethingÂ of themselvesÂ and everyone was proud of him and sure that he would achieve his goals.Â Alâ€™sÂ death comesÂ as a complete surprise to those around him andÂ both Nathan and Megan feel guilty that theyÂ didnâ€™tÂ do enough to helpÂ him.Â Â In investigating the days and weeks before Alâ€™s death,Â NathanÂ reveals to usÂ both theÂ pernicious influenceÂ ofÂ socialÂ media andÂ the difficulties young people (particularly young men)Â haveÂ inÂ expressing their feelings and asking for help.Â
The authorâ€™s own experience of bullying makesÂ thisÂ a brutally realisticÂ and,Â at times,Â difficultÂ and emotionalÂ read.Â Â She includes some notes aboutÂ how she herself was the subject of bullying andÂ there areÂ someÂ really usefulÂ contacts at the back of the book.Â Â However,Â itâ€™sÂ a story that needs to beÂ told andÂ shouldnâ€™tÂ be ignored.Â Â ItÂ has given me a greater insightÂ intoÂ whatÂ itâ€™sÂ like to grow up in the digital ageÂ and theÂ immenseÂ strength of character needed to standÂ alongsideÂ thoseÂ who are different and toÂ call outÂ those who torment them.Â Â Â
Despite the harrowing themes, this book moves at a fast pace and has a hopeful ending.Â Â I found it extremely hard to put down and I’m so glad to have read it.Â Â The characters will stay with me for a long time.Â Â Â I hope that in reading it, you all realise that you were born to #burnbright and seek help, should you ever need it.