THE PLOT: ‘We Are All Constellations’ by Amy Beashel is a young adult contemporary novel. Iris lost her mum in a house fire when she was 10-years-old, but now she’s seventeen she refuses to let grief define her. Strong, fearless and brave, Iris won’t let her emotions show – even to her best friend Tala. But, when Iris discovers her dad and stepmum have been lying to her, her world falls apart. As she tries to hold it together, she becomes focused on the magnetic Orla and neglects Tala. But can Iris stop pushing people away and deal with her grief?
RATING: I purchased this novel because I thought it could be a good comparison title for my own young adult novel-in-progress. In particular, I was drawn to the strong voice and writing style, so I hoped to learn from it. However, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations as I found the book a little bit predictable. Overall, it was enjoyable and well-written – when I read large chunks I felt “in” the novel – but it didn’t blow me away.
GOOD BITS: This book is a good example of issue-led young-adult fiction. The trigger warnings for sexual assault, suicide, self-harm and alcoholism intrigued me and it sounded like my kind of book (aka, trauma-filled!). I liked the writing-style as Iris has a strong voice and the author utilizes interesting experiments with the word layout. Additionally, the storyline with Tala, particularly around her sexuality, was engaging and I felt it was a realistic portrayal of friendship (the poetry, on the other hand, made me wince). The Orla romance also worked well and all of the plot elements tied together.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: It’s difficult to put my finger on why but I lost interest in the story. I think it didn’t grab me emotionally. Despite the heavy themes, I always felt like I was reading a story rather than living with the characters. Maybe the repetition of Iris’s feelings and the exposition created this emotional distance for me. Or perhaps it’s because Iris has serious main character syndrome and makes very annoying choices to move the plot forward. I know it’s necessary for a novel but it was frustrating.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘All the Things We Never Said’ by Yasmin Rahman, ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ by Holly Bourne and ‘Girl in Pieces’ by Kathleen Glasgow. If you’re a fan of contemporary, issue-led YA, then this is for you.
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