Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson

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Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson

Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Eleanor Faulkner
Reviewed by Eleanor Faulkner
Summary: This book is one of a mere handful of texts written for young adults about the suffragette movement, but what makes this unique is that unlike most suffragette narratives, it's set after the hunger strikes and fighting, when the vote has been (partially) won. The novel gives a fascinating, sensitive, intelligent, even-handed insight into the historical period, yet it feels like an incredibly contemporary text with themes which are highly applicable to 2017. Sheena Wilkinson's compelling writing pulls you in and makes you care; the story managed to keep me gripped, even though the plot was weaker than I expected. It features a memorable and extremely likeable teenage protagonist called Stella, and I enjoyed the intricate details that Wilkinson has woven in, such as Stella's fondness for boarding-school novels, which make it all-the-more engaging. This is an extremely refreshing and worthwhile read from clearly a very talented author.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 180 Date: October 2017
Publisher: Little Island
ISBN: 978-1910411537

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15 year old Stella was brought up in Ireland by her suffragette mother. When her mother dies from the flu pandemic sweeping across Europe in November 1918, Stella is sent to live with her estranged aunt who runs a boarding house. This coincides with a time of great change for the country as women are allowed to vote for the first time. Stella is determined to follow in her mother's footsteps to help make history, and whilst her age denies her the ability to vote herself, she goes to great lengths to ensure that former suffragette hunger-striker and former childhood friend of her mother is able to cast hers.

In Stella, Wilkinson has created a strong, memorable character and has successfully managed to capture the awkwardness of being a teenager. She is a hugely relatable protagonist, particularly to a young person, as she is just like any teenager today. I was able to feel great empathy towards her and I love how she feels things so strongly and speaks her mind.

This book is one of a mere handful of texts written for young adults about the suffragette movement, but what makes this unique is that unlike most suffragette narratives, it's set after the hunger strikes and fighting, when the vote has been (partially) won. The novel gives a fascinating, sensitive, intelligent, even-handed insight into the historical period and the complexities facing many young women and families during the turbulent years directly after the War. However, it also covers many universal themes that every teenager can relate to today whether they have an understanding of war, politics and Northern Ireland's history or not. So many of the book's concerns, though particular to 1918, seem terribly applicable to 2017 and I was particularly struck by how contemporary this novel feels, which is surely a testament to Wilkinson's skills as a writer.

The story also deals very sensitively with the theme of coping with loss, trauma and change. Stella and Sandy, the young officer she befriends, are both grieving and Sandy is also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, though it wasn't called that in 1918. Whilst it is clear that there are no easy solutions for either character, the book is neither heavy nor depressing; Wilkinson has portrayed 1918 as a time of great hope and positivity. For me, the book also carries the message that individuals can make a difference.

Sheena Wilkinson's compelling writing pulls you in and makes you care; the story managed to keep me gripped, even though the plot was weaker than I expected. I love the way she has dealt with the larger political and social issues but made it personal by focusing on a select few individuals and the relationship between them. I also enjoyed the intricate details that Wilkinson has woven in, such as Stella's fondness for boarding-school novels, which make it all-the-more engaging.

All in all, this is an extremely refreshing and worthwhile read from clearly a very talented author. It is the first Sheena Wilkinson novel I've read and after reading Star by Star I will be going back for more. I would recommend it to any girl, whether she's interested in historical fiction or not, from the age of 11 upwards.

If you enjoyed this, then I'd suggest reading Hazel by Julie Hearn and Until We Win by Linda Newbery.

Buy Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson at Amazon.com.


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