SWIMMING IN A SEA OF STARS, by Julie Wright, Shadow Mountain, Aug. 1, 2023, Hardcover, $19.99 (young adult)
A girl’s return to school following a suicide attempt has a cascade effect in Swimming in a Sea of Stars, by Julie Wright.
A single kindness can save a life.
“Journal entry: Heading to school. I know what everyone will say. There goes the girl who tried to kill herself.”
Addison is no stranger to feeling stressed, insecure, and sad. Her therapist recommended she keep a journal to help her understand those feelings better, which she really needs today. It’s her first day back to school, several weeks after she survived her suicide attempt. She knows there are rumors about why she did it: A lousy home life? Bullying? Heartbreak? None of them are true, but it doesn’t matter because Addison still feels like she’s drowning. She still holds secrets she’s not ready to share.
During the school day, Addison encounters four other students struggling with their own secrets:
Booker is anxious about seeing Addison. They were sort of a couple until he tried to kiss her. She fled and then tried to end her life. Those two things couldn’t be related, could they?
Celia feels trapped by her mother’s abusive boyfriend. She can guess why Addison did what she did.
Damion is TikTok-famous and thinks befriending Addison could boost his followers. But what no one knows is he needs the world to remember him since his sick mom doesn’t anymore.
Avery is considered a loner and doesn’t know Addison, but they have neighboring lockers. With Avery’s older brother in jail for dealing drugs, Avery is desperate for meaningful human connection.
Swimming in a Sea of Stars is a novel about how we’re all interconnected, like the stars in the night sky that form constellations and map out the universe, and if even one star goes missing, the effect is profound. —Synopsis provided by Shadow Mountain
Swimming in a Sea of Stars has two underlying messages — you don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors and small acts of kindness can have big impacts.
The story begins with a wham and then sort of sputters a little while author Julie Wright finds her pacing. It feels as if it starts with some of her characters fully formed and others close but not quite there. About a quarter of the way in, Wright really finds her stride, and you, as the reader, are rewarded.
Wright is a seasoned writer. Her prose is smooth and her premise sound. As she takes you through 24 hours with these teens, you find yourself wanting to know more, anticipating new elements within each of their intersecting stories.
Swimming in a Sea of Stars tugs at your heartstrings and really makes you think about the people you interact with. It’s a good read for teens and their parents.
Warning: This book does contain subjects that could be triggering for readers — suicide, mental and physical abuse of minors, and bullying. None of these things are described explicitly and these experiences are related in general terms.
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