Letters to a Shooting Star, Keith Hale
Publisher: Watersgreen House
Genre: YA, LGBT (G), Psychological
Length: 237 pages
“Last time I was in a church was one night in London. I needed a place to sleep. I’d never go for a service. I can’t stand that.”
I will openly admit that I struggled with Letters to a Shooting Star. In writing this review I even had trouble in trying to work out the genre’s in which it sits. However to begin I will say that this book is not for everyone; it was strenuous to read, but in the end I was left with a high level of satisfaction, and I hope many others will too.
Dylan, who spoke the line at the beginning of the review, has good reasons for fearing churches. Over the course of Letters to a Shooting Star we discover his past story as well as that of his brother, Ethan, and Ben, an orphan from country Arkansas. These three start off individually and, slowly, their stories intertwine into a gripping narrative.
Set across the early years of the 80’s this book deals with the abuse suffered by Dylan and Ethan from the hands of their father and the sequence of destructive events that spark from a particular evening. In another storyline Ethan and Ben find themselves attracted to each other years after the aforementioned evening, and their love story deals with the fallout stemming from the years of abuse suffered by both brothers.
Parts I Enjoyed
Letters to a Shooting Star is set in conservative, evangelical, rural America during a highly conservative period in American history. The fact that two young men in Ethan and Ben can build a friendship and level of trust so great that they can admit their feelings towards each other in this period is amazing. Their personal reactions to their own sexuality is particularly interesting.
Given the time period and their conservative town the fear and trepidation these two feel is perfectly understandable. I appreciate how the author dealt with this web of fear and found that it should be quite relative to today’s youth who may read this book.
Left-of-field is probably the best way I can describe the structure of Letters to a Shooting Star. Dylan, Ethan and Ben’s stories start at completely different points in their lives and do not seem to be interconnected at all (I will address this later). By the end of the book, though, these weaving tangents build into an excellent crescendo with an amazing conclusion.
Doesn’t Skip the Ugly Parts
There is abuse in this book….correction, there is A LOT of abuse in this book; psychological, physical and sexual. With the three points of view examined the author has given us three different perspectives. The ways in which these three boys deal with the abuse is interesting, with differing takes on it allowing an examination of how different people react.
The abuse is tastefully dealt with on page so that readers are not vomiting from the horror of these activities, but sufficient in detail so that the effects and damage is felt by the reader. The author should be applauded on achieving this excellently written middle ground, not skipping over these horrible parts of life too many of us would truly like to forget.
For the first third of this book there is little, if anything, tying the three storylines together. In addition to that I found identifying whose storyline was whose very difficult. The book eventually caught up to itself and summarily became an amazing tale.
Given how much I loved the eventual story I felt incredibly disappointed by this beginning. I really hope that this can be overcome by readers and they can experience the great conclusion of Letters to a Shooting Star.
I wanted to give this book 5 stars, but in all good faith I couldn’t for the reason above. If you are able to get your head around the left-of-field story structure in Letters to a Shooting Star then I am sure you’ll enjoy an excellent coming of age story with a highly interesting setting and premise. If you don’t see this as being your type of book then don’t say you weren’t warned.
Ben – “Do we have a future? The two of us together always? You and me?”
Ethan – “Yes.”