Swimming in a Sea of Stars
Shadow Mountain Publishing
Published August 1, 2023
About Swimming in a Sea of Stars
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 poignant and gripping 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.
I like the concept of this novel. The story follows an ensemble cast. It shows diary entries from a girl who’s recovering from a suicide attempt and the point of view of her former best friend, a boy whose cousin is diagnosed with cancer. We follow a girl experiencing domestic violence, a boy whose mother has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and a girl whose brother was recently arrested for trying to sell Fentanyl.
Each of them crosses the paths of the others, and each carries secrets the others are completely unaware of. I love that idea. It’s very much an embodiment of the expression, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Though the story touches on difficult issues (domestic violence, sexual abuse, homelessness, and terminal illness), it often keeps those things at a distance by sparing readers the painful details. I think this idea allows the book to be more accessible to younger or more sensitive teens than some of the other popular young adult titles on the shelves.
What I wish, though, is that the commentary on drug addiction wasn’t quite so judgy. I think also that in the attempt to keep difficult content to a minimum, the text sometimes veers into telling rather than showing the story.
On the whole, I still think this concept is really cool. I like that the author used a quote from a Linkin Park song to tie all the stories together. I’d recommend this for readers interested in heavier topics but not ready for or interested in the harsh details books on those topics sometimes deliver.
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Booker is Black. One character is a domestic violence survivor. Another is a sexual assault survivor.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Vague references to assault.
One character details some of the physical abuse she’s endured. Vague references to gang rivalry and threats of violence. See sexual content above.
A girl’s brother is in jail for possession of Fentanyl with intent to sell. Another student confronts her about rumors that she also sells drugs.
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