Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Looking At the Stars by Jo Cotterill (Children's, 11 years +, 10E/10E)

 30th January 2014, Bodley Head Children's, 384 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Themes: war torn country, innocence lost, segregation, prejudice, stupid rules, children being children, betrayal, losing everything, witnessing horrendous actions, fighting to survive, generosity, kindness, making thvmost of what you have, story telling, family ties,

Content: some scenes of violence, death, separation, tissues needed

Amina’s homeland has been ravaged by war for many months, but so far she and her family are safe, together. When a so-called liberating force arrives in the country, the family think their prayers for peace will soon be answered, but they are horribly wrong . . . The country is thrown into yet further turmoil and Amina’s family is devastated . . .

Through it all, Amina has her imagination to fall back on - of a better place and time. But can her stories get her through this?

Nayuleska's thoughts 
This isn't a book I'd choose to read at the moment because I always end up feeling awful for all the people like Amina and her family whose lives are wrecked by war and that feeling lasts a long while. But because I'm a fangirl of Jo's work I read it in stages, so it wasn't as overwhelming as reading it in one go.

Each reading left me a lot to think about. The countless restrictions that Amina and Jenna dealt with made me mad. Children are children, of course they will smile and laugh! They are inquisitive and intelligent, so I was glad when their parents reluctantly explained some of what was going on before the fateful night the soldiers came. After that, well, a lot of tragedies happened. I was thankful for the small breaks the sisters were given such as unexpected kindness from total strangers because that helped them continue living in terrible conditions.

I liked, how Jo used a country and a political system which is similar yet slightly different to those that exist today in areas of conflict. I learnt a lot about refugee camps - I hope real ones don't have a limit to the number of people they can help - that's too awful to dwell on. The plus side of where Amina stayed was that occasionally there was a real sense of community among the diverse people there who mostly had to be selfish and look out for themselves, instead of helping each other which Amina and her sister Jenna have different views on. Neither are wrong and neither are right. War is a funny thing where previous beliefs can change because of circumstances.

There is a lot of heartache in Amina's life which yes made me cry. However, as there always in Jo's stories there was a thin but firm thread of hope. Okay, so at the beginning when I couldn't see that hope I trusted Jo not to let me down. Amina learns that every talent has a place in life, and not to underestimate the powerful effect that talents have when used for others.

Although it's not a book that I will reread  the power and the sense of reality in Amina's story means this deserves the highest grade I have, 10E/10E. 

Find out more on why stars are warriors by reading the book and checking out Jo's website.

Suggested read
Jo's other books are also full of emotion (no war) - check out the Sweet Hearts series which I'm a total fangirl over, starting with Star Crossed (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E) 


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the lovely review, Nayu :-) and I'm sorry I made you sad! Jo x

Nayuleska said...

You're most welcome! As I said on Twitter, I cry over sad parts and happy parts, so please don't worry! I recover quickly ^o^