“People who put on a big act usually aren’t as big as they want you to believe. Look out for the little people, Andi. They tend to make the biggest difference.”
I’ve not read any ARCs before in my time as a book reviewer, so it goes without saying that this one was a great experience for me. For an author to share their work before their little book baby gets released into the wild is such a brave thing to do, and I know this particular book will get some pretty good reviews when it’s time for its publication.
There are a few things that stood out to me that could be altered and improved upon, but I’ll touch on these as we go. However, if you want your next read to be involving and something you can really relate to on a personal level, this is most certainly one to put on your TBR list.
The Stars Within Us by Ime Atakpa is a feel-good story which follows Andi, a girl who seems to have it all on the surface. She’s loved by so many – the boys all want to get closer to her, the girls, even her close friends, seem to be jealous of her good looks. She becomes miserable due to a boy she’s grown up with, but as she meets someone new, she’s taught the meaning of self-love and confidence.
Starting on a slight negative, but there’s a reason! (It’ll all become clear, Ime, I promise.) The story begins a little too slowly for my liking. In the first chapter, a lot of time is spent describing Andi and how other people see her. A lot of the description seems to be repeated. We understand that Andi is a pretty girl and that everyone seems to be attracted to her, but this is said and explored multiple times within the same chapter. I feel like this part could have been said in much fewer words.
However, spinning this on it’s head, you also seem to get a pretty in-depth insight into what life is like for Andi. It makes us realise that being popular because of your looks isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be, and that she actually feels very isolated and singled out. A lot of descriptive emotion here, which I like. I don’t think the length of this description hinders the book too much, but just maybe something that could be revisited. Just a personal opinion I guess!
From the beginning, I got a real good idea of what the rest of the story may be about. We explore the relationships that Andi has with a variety of people – from her “friends” at school, to the loving and special bond she shares with her mother. This part especially was really lovely; reading about Andi and her mother pulled on my heart strings every time – the description of their relationship was beautifully put together.
Andi learns a lot about herself. She begins to realise who is a waste of her time and who she can rely on, and in the beginning of the book, that latter list is very small. From all this, I think the book teaches a lot of lessons right from the word go.
“The sound of his voice never faded from memory, even as his face slowly did.”
It teaches us the lesson that we should never take anything for granted and that we should all be making memories while we’re all alive and well. Again, there’s so much great emotional description that will get you right in the feels. Tissues at the ready – just a suggestion. *sniff*
The more we get into the book, the more we grow with Andi. We share her successes and worries, her sadness and her fears. I actually got to the point where I saw Andi as my own fictional friend – someone that I’d love to help and look after! Thankfully, we meet Cassie at just the right moment. We know she’s a good one after she’s the only one to help after some embarrassing school incident. It’s clear that she’s going to be the one to turn Andi’s life around and to make her see things more positively. Well, we all need a friend like that.
Ime uses his descriptive skills to follow Andi and Cassie’s story further. Andi discovers her sexuality and who she really is as Cassie continues to be her guide, even though she may be a little young at this point. Not sure how intenional this was when the story was being written.
Again, it seems a lot of the description, even throughout the middle chapters, focuses on Andi and how people look at her. I think the repetition of this is unnecessary here, as we already know her character pretty well by now thanks to the in-depth description at the start of the book. I’m not sure why this seems to be a constant theme – maybe there is a reason for it that I missed somewhere.
However, Ime has done a great job at describing how Andi’s acquaintances change their view of her the more confident she gets. Cassie seemed to be giving Andi her voice and helping her to overcome all of her obstacles, until, yet again, Andi is left alone.
Now, an unexpected turn is always good in a book, but this particular turn was over in the space of a few sentences. I seemed to want more information about this incident and I was left with a “wait…what?” kind of feeling. Maybe some of that previous description could have been incorporated here to give it a bigger impact.
As the story progresses, we see characters trying to be friendly towards Andi, even after everything they’ve put her through before. Her feelings progress and she seems to know way too much about sex and love, probably a lot more than someone her age should. Perhaps the ages of Ime’s characters need a little more thought. Andi’s actions and thoughts should be that of a much older kid in my opinion.
“Nothing lasted forever, but it seemed that everything good barely lasted at all.”
What is nice to see is how much Andi has learnt about herself over the months gone by. I think this ongoing part of the story has been structured particularly well. It’s clear who has made the biggest impact on Andi and who has been there to build up her strength. Her journey is one that a lot of people can relate to and, when the book is edited to perfection, it will be a memorable feature of The Stars Within Us, I’m sure of it.
The middle of the book seems to go over the same topics of relationships with friends, boys and Andi’s enemies, and how their relationships change and grow with all the new lessons learned. It’s clear that this is the main focus the story, which is good, but I feel there could be more main events to really make these events pop out to the reader. Fewer fillers, more ooomph!
Throughout the book, the references to the stars have been really well received by me. I loved how this was a theme that ran all the way through to the end of the book, where we are reunited with a key character from Andi’s past. Andi finally starts standing up for herself too, and if I’m honest, it was one of the things I’d wanted to happen throughout the whole book.
However, again, I felt like I needed more of those bigger, meatier events, something other than school, parties and meet ups with friends. Perhaps this is where there should have that unexpected turn or big event that makes the characters experience something extraordinary.
“I think there’s a long history of things written up in the stars. And if you can read them, I think that history opens up to you.
The ending itself was pretty satisfactory and we do get some closure and answers to some of the questions we’ve been dying to know. It also gives you a warm feeling of things not only falling into place, but knowing that certain characters get what they deserve. Both good and bad!
I think this book needs a bit more work before it is completed to its fullest, but I think it’s most definitely got awesome potential. There is a direction, but it needs a little more “ooomph” before it’s ready for publication.
The great thing is that I know Ime is continuing to work on this book and is editing as we speak. I’m confident that by taking the comments of the Books Of All Shades team on board, he’ll be truly ready for that publication date!
Thanks to Ime for submitting an advanced copy of his book to the club and allowing us to give our feedback! We hope you take everything on board. Keep an eye out for The Stars Within Us on May 10th! Follow Ime on Twitter or Instagram to keep up to date! 📚
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