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We See the Stars

Simon is an eleven year old boy and like most kids his age he is struggling to make sense of the world he lives in, and the life and people around him. He has Mental Health issues, which make things even harder to sort out. As Simon is the narrator of this story we spend time seeing things from inside his thoughts and ideas.

Kate has set this story in rural Australia in a small town. It is after the Vietnam War in the 1970’s. The story begins with Simon and follows his life for a stretch of time. We discover his family, his local neighbourhood, and his school. The family are not affluent, and sacrifices have to be made. Dad, Grandma, and his brother Dave all live together. Not much is mentioned about Mum, but there is tension in the family which Simon internalizes.

Quickly we learn that Simon is able to express his inner emotions differently. He reacts by imagining a honeycomb with bees building and moving honey inside his chest. Simon hasn’t spoken for a long time, and at school he is assumed to be weird by the other children and a source of annoyance by the teacher. However, a new teacher comes to the school and befriends him, and they become so close that Simon says, “I like your class.”  They share some secrets that will later save a life.

One of the other children in the class is Cassie. She has a deformed hand and would be tormented by the other kids, but she is fearless and strong and would beat them up. When Simon shares some food with her they develop a slow friendship. Tragedy strikes the small community and, in his head, Simon is pretty sure he knows how to solve the problem. Being a very poor communicator, he sets off by himself, to do what no one else can.

At times this narration by Simon is a little confusing. We must remember that he thinks differently and try to adjust to his wavelengths. His view of the world is puzzling and a little sad. He has Superman for comfort. We are reminded that the world is a confusing place for us when growing up but add in a family trauma and a health issue and suddenly it becomes unmanageable. The descriptive writing in this book shows the author’s compassion and understanding for children with difficulties.

Author Kate van Hooft
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760632526
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released July 2018