Search

December Book of the Month
Back to article list

8th December 2021

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly is a powerful read for Key Stage 4 readers and contains themes that readers might find upsetting, including suicide and some scenes of intense bullying. I love the fact that it is set locally, in Wythenshawe. Books that deal well these intense and emotional issues, such as Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, are often American.   Of course, these struggles are universal, and it could be helpful to read about the same issues happening more locally, so that those struggling don’t feel like they are alone in feeling that way. At one point, one of the characters has a conversation with a girl from a local grammar school.  This could easily have been our school and the impact of the storyline feels greater for it. What would you have done if you had been that person, in that situation? 

We follow the story of Nathan and Megan, who are brought together following the tragic suicide of Nathan’s brother Al. To his friend Megan and his family, Al seemed to have his life sorted.  He was talented, ambitious, and determined to leave Wythenshawe to study Art at University. He had something to prove, that a black boy from a council estate in Wythenshawe, could make something of themselves and everyone was proud of him and sure that he would achieve his goals. Al’s death comes as a complete surprise to those around him and both Nathan and Megan feel guilty that they didn’t do enough to help him.  In investigating the days and weeks before Al’s death, Nathan reveals to us both the pernicious influence of social media and the difficulties young people (particularly young men) have in expressing their feelings and asking for help. 

The author’s own experience of bullying makes this a brutally realistic and, at times, difficult and emotional read.  She includes some notes about how she herself was the subject of bullying and there are some really useful contacts at the back of the book.  However, it’s a story that needs to be told and shouldn’t be ignored.  It has given me a greater insight into what it’s like to grow up in the digital age and the immense strength of character needed to stand alongside those who are different and to call out those who torment them.   

Despite the harrowing themes, this book moves at a fast pace and has a hopeful ending.  I found it extremely hard to put down and I’m so glad to have read it.  The characters will stay with me for a long time.   I hope that in reading it, you all realise that you were born to #burnbright and seek help, should you ever need it.