Firstly, I want to say a huge, Thank you, to Walker Books Australia. I am so grateful for each title I have been sent to review. Walker Books is such a fantastic Australian company, so friendly and accommodating. So, Thank you, so much for giving me the chance to read such diverse books, review them and to promote your company in the process.
This review may get a little spoilery, so here is your warning. If you haven’t read this book, please don’t keep reading, click THIS link, to my GoodReads, where you will find a spoiler free review.
Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst & Paula Garner
Published April 16th 2019 by Candlewick Press
My first impressions of this book is that the cover is stunning, it is a book that feels inviting, no matter your age or genre preference. The colours are soothing and the galaxy and title suggest something to do with the stars, maybe space themed?
I found this book a little slow to start, I struggled with the writing style and the language feels clunky. Teens using large and complex words doesn’t seem to fit. But the more you read, the more you grow accustomed to the writing style and it starts to flow.
I’m really starting to connect with Sam and Zoe, they are such complex characters, each with their own burdons. You instantly feel a connection with them when you start to see their friendship bloom. They are the perfect companions for eachother, both knowing what it is like to give yourself 100% over to the care of another person, to avoid truly being you, in order for that other person to thrive. To give up so much, so that you can focus on helping someone else get better. These girls are so strong.
I am in awe of Zoe. So much. Zoe looks after her disabled brother with so much passion and love. She looks after him day after day and yes, she gets tired, but she never complains, she comes home from school early to make sure she is there to help. She knows what he likes, which songs, which food, what his sounds and gestures mean. I work with children with learning disabilities, I know the drain it can have physically and mentally, and to see Zoe, so utterly passionate, each and every day, about caring for her brother, fills me with admiration and respect.
Starworld and Startalk, finally, we see what the title is all about! I am a little weirded out by it, I;m not going to lie. But I understand its importance.
I think that, as much as their Startalk is a way for them to escape their too-hard lives, it will eventually implode. There is too much riding on it, staying the same, staying as something fun and carefree, almost as though there is no room for a real friendship outside of the world that they are creating. Se wee this in that Zoe is pushing for a normal friendship, normal texting but Sam constantly reverts back to the Startalk, it is almost as if she is afraid Zoe won’t like her outside of their special world.
Wow, Zoe has some judgemental friends. Yes, we as humans can be very judgy, but to put down people, things, food etc, that makes yout friends happy, is just spiteful. Putting down others, to make yourself feel better, is never okay. It is no wonder that Cammie is the only one of Zoe’s friends who know, truly, what is going on in her life. Cammie, seems the most sincere and caring of Zoe’s friends.
Oh, it happened. I knew it would happen and now my heart is breaking for Sam. Somehow, Zoe’s friends have seen their Startalk, their dreamy world and they are teasing Sam about it. I don’t know if Zoe showed them or what happened, but they know and Sam is devastated. It may seem small, but this will completely break Sam, I doubt that she will trust Zoe again, or anyone else for that matter. She put so much faith and trust in Zoe, in their private little world and now it is out in the open for everyone to see and judge. Just what Sam couldn’t bear to happen.
A kiss. I wasn’t entirely expecting a kiss. There has been gentle sub-text hinting towards Sam being attracted to females, but I didn’t think it would escalate into a kiss, when Sam, herself doesn’t really seem like she is ready for it. But oh wow, I can only imagine the devastation Sam will be feeling, The rejection alone, or more imajined rejection is going to debilitate her. I hope this isn’t the end of Zoe and Sam. The end of Starworld.
This situation with Sam’s feelings for Zoe, growing at such a rate of knots, is, although took me by surprise, it was also what I was afraid of. Yes Starworld, for Sam was the same as it was for Zoe. An escape from their real lives, somewhere where they made up the rules, they could change what was happening, it was fun and an adventure, a ‘safe haven’ is what Zoe calls it. But I think for Sam, it was a little more than that. It gave her the chance to impress, she almost saw Zoe as a damsel in distress and painted her in that light, within Starworld, in order to be able to save her.
I can see so much of Sam’s mum, in Sam. I mean her disorder, Sam is slowly picking up her mum’s ticks and habits, which makes OCD so much more scary. I think we all write it off as someone who needs to be clean and neat all of the time, not someone who is controlled by fear that if they don’t do certain things, a certain number of times or a certain way, that the world will end. Literally. I love that we get to see how Sam is learning or inheriting, her mum’s ways, that OCD can be a learned behaviour, even though you think you are supporting someone who is living with it, you could be enabling or making it worse.
While we are on the subject of mothers, I want to touch on Zoe’s. She is such a selfless woman. She is going through so much of her own, cancer in partial remission, isn’t a walk in the park. But does she dwell on it? No, she takes it in her stride and motivates herself to give more to her children. All of her energies are put into helping Zoe and Jonah, not once does she complain. She even goes as far as supporting Zoe to find her birth parents, because if the cancer takes her, she wants Zoe to be able to find more family to support her through her mothers’ loss. This woman is a saint and we don’t deserve her!
Zoe has such a huge influence on Sam’s life. On giving her the confidence to grow, to speak up and to be who she is. Without Zoe, I don’t think Sam would have gone to London, or flirted with the barmaid, or faced her mother about her illness. Zoe have her courage to be herself, to recognise that she, as a person, is enough, that she matters.
Even through their friendship doesn’t end on the warmest of notes, the residual, mutual benefit from their friendship is incredible. You can feel it in the way that they are always thinking of each other in key times in their lives away at college, how each one has imprinted a part of themselves, onto the other.
This book is filled with complex and strong women. There is such a powerful feeling of women supporting women, and I think that is so important in YA fiction. It covers so many different subjects that are so rarely touched on in Young Adult fiction. From OCD through to Divorce, there is something that each and every reader can relate to. This book is a mine-field of emotional attacks and you will feel each and every blast. This book has presented readers with a world filled with emotion, friendship, bravery and strength. A world of imagination and believing in yourself. Colthurst and Garner have written incredible characters, characters that I know, will stick with me for a long time.
The ending gives me hope that maybe, one day, when the girls are in their twenties, Zoe and Sam, might revisit Starworld and their friendship. At the moment in their lives, they are content, learning and growing. But there is always room for one more adventure.
Thanks for reading.