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We See The Stars by Kate Van Hooft

Simon, an eleven-year-old boy, lives in a world of silence, lists and numbers. He hasn't spoken for years, and he doesn't know why. His schoolmates think he's weird and his only friends in the world are his brother Davey, and Superman who is always there when he needs him.

One day Simon shares his lunch with Cassie, the scary girl from his class, and a friendship forms. Then his new teacher Ms Hilcombe takes an interest in him and his circle of friends expands. But all is not well in the world, and when Ms Hilcombe goes missing, only Simon knows where she is. He has made a promise to never tell though, so now he is the only one who can save her.

Van Hooft's writing is nothing short of beautiful. She describes Simon's unique world with such detail and so genuinely, it is hard not to get caught up in his pain and anxiety. Her writing is lyrical, poetic, and something many writers strive for, but never quite reach.

Interactions between characters, including dialogue, are natural and Van Hooft just lets them be. Simon's quirks, his Grandma's motivations, and Cassie's disability are all just present, without the need to overanalyse or dwell on them.

However, the story does start to drag just a little bit, once Van Hooft's magic starts to wear off. Towards the end, it felt a little like Van Hooft had lost her direction, needing just a little extra editing to keep the sparkle throughout the entire novel.

The blip in pace is then picked up again as the real action of Simon's story begins. However, by then it is too close to the end, and sadly the final pages seem like a little bit of a cop out.

While small gems of information are revealed gradually, the big questions are never fully answered. While some readers will finish the book devastated, others will be frustrated. While it remains faithful to Simon's singular perspective, the potential for a stunning ending is not quite fully realised.

We See The Stars is a solid debut from an extremely promising writer. The title is somewhat prophetic -- while she hasn't quite got there this time, Van Hooft's future offerings will surely be stellar.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Allen and Unwin, RRP $32.99


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