In Little Stars – Linda Green

Published By: Quercus
Pages: 464
Released On: 02/02/2023

Sylvie and Donna travel on the same train to work each day but have never spoken. Their families are on different sides of the bitter Brexit divide, although the tensions and arguments at home give them much in common.

What they don’t know is that their eldest children, Rachid and Jodie, are about to meet for the first time and fall in love. Aware that neither family will approve, the teenagers vow to keep their romance a secret.

But as Sylvie’s family feel increasingly unwelcome in England, a desire for a better life threatens Rachid and Jodie’s relationship. Can their love unite their families – or will it end in tragedy?

*****

Possible sensitive topics: Brexit, political differences, racism, religious differences, citizenship, affairs, marital issues, extremism, violence, injury, death, grief.

Thanks to NetGalley and Quercus for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I had heard so much good stuff about this book that I positively squealed when I got offered a copy. But having finished it, I’m most definitely on the fence.

There’s a definite Romeo and Juliet vibe about this, which gave me hope as it’s my favourite Shakespeare play, but I’m afraid that hope was misplaced for me.

I generally dislike fiction books that use too much reality in them. I’m living it, I don’t want to read about it too, I want fiction to be an escape and so the Brexit backdrop was a bit distracting.

One of my main concerns is how much of this is fictional and how much is the author’s belief? Has she been impartial in creating a fictional tale or is she bias towards leave/remain? It often feels like she’s written it to provoke.

I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t this. I guess I thought it would be this heartfelt and beautiful story, but instead it’s heavy and sad and shocking. Yes there’s love and friendship and joy and hope in it, but I found the overall tone very morose. It’s a very heavy book and I wonder if, at times, it’s maybe too heavy.

I know he’s young but I found the character of Rachid to be a bit creepy. I did grow to like him, but at times he felt a bit stalker-ish and it was painted as romantic. I didn’t like Sam – I won’t go into detail for fear of spoilers, but he’s not a nice character at all. And then you have Jodie, who for me was a bit of a wet weekend. She puts up this front but behind it she’s a bit of a weak character. And then you have 15 year old Amina who was probably my favourite of the children. She had her flaws but I felt she was just trying to live her life but everything was conspiring against her and she wasn’t able to live her own life. The rest of the characters are on the periphery. I didn’t like either father (Neil and Bilal) for different reasons, but did feel some empathy towards the mothers (Sylvie and Donna).

I am afraid that for the most of it, I was just thinking about the next book I was going to read rather than losing myself in it. I’d seen so many positive reviews and whilst it wasn’t a bad book or badly written (it definitely improved as it went along), it just felt flat and moany and critical, which made it unenjoyable for me.

One thing I did really like was how everything was linked. Both families flow in and out of each other’s lives which I thought was very cleverly done.

I’m unsure it will stand the test of time. I don’t mean that in terms of her writing ability, there’s nothing wrong with that – bar a few typos which I’m sure will be ironed out in the final copy – but the plot. Whilst Brexit will become a point in history that we are taught about, I’m not sure it’ll have this division or this fever of opinion as it does not when it’s still timely.

It is a sad world we live in when something as horrific as is in this book is actually a reality. That racism and racial violence can’t just be confined to the bookshelves. And whilst I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I thought, I could appreciate the passion that Linda has for the topic and the importance of her writing.

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