Author // Lisa Selin Davis
Publication Month // October 26, 2016
Publisher // Hotkey (Allen & Unwin)
Australian RRP // $19.99 AUD
Genre // Young Adult, Contemporary
A heartbreaking, wryly funny story of love, longing, music and one very special comet.
In the aftermath of her older sister’s death, sixteen-year-old Carrie is taken under the wings of her sister’s friends, and finds herself forsaking the science nerds of her former life and slipping into a daze of cheap beer and recreational drugs. Carrie – a talented guitar player and obsessive tracker of the coming Vira comet – is partying hard and fooling around with boys she doesn’t even like, even though she’s desperate for a boyfriend.
Her mother, enveloped by grief at the loss of her eldest child, has retreated to a monastery in the Catskills that requires a vow of silence. With her family splintered apart, Carrie is overcome at times by uncontrollable rages and her father decides to send her to a boot camp for wayward teens. Compounding the shame, and to her horror, she is forced to wear work boots and a hard hat – boy poison.
Then she meets Dean, a fellow musician and refugee from his own dark past. Throughout the summer Carrie learns more about Dean, about her sister’s death, about her own family’s past, and about herself… as well as about the Bee Gees, disco and the difference between wood and sheet-rock screws. Through love, music and her precious comet – and no small help from Lou Reed – Carrie fumbles her way through the complex web of tragedies and misunderstandings, to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.
Lost Stars or What Lou Reed Taught Me About Love is a book about the effects of the loss of a child on an entire family. Told from the perspective of middle child, Carrie, we experience the heart-breaking loss suffered by the whole family – the absentee mother, the father on the brink, Carrie shouldering the blame for her older sister’s death and a younger sister left to pick up the pieces. It’s raw and hard to read at times, but powerful because it highlights the destructive power of guilt on everyone.
Set in the 80s, our protagonist, Carrie, has been taken in by her older sister’s friends – older teens who love music, booze and casual drug use. In them, Carrie seeks to find her lost sister and fill a hole that can never be filled. In doing so she has given up her old life – the life of a science nerd who had friends her own age – but not her passion for tracking and observing the Vira comet. She’s an interesting narrator because while she has her moments of sincerity, for the majority of the book she is simply an awful person, lashing out at anyone and anything, and rather than being put off by that, I found her to be far more relatable because that awfulness was so in tune with the events of the story.
All of the side characters were wonderfully constructed by Davis and even though we only see glimpses into their life, it’s enough to begin to form a more complete picture of the world around Carrie. Rosie, her younger sister, was a stand-out – projecting a toughness to hide a vulnerability she can’t let anyone else see. Dean was also a great character to read about, and though we get his own backstory – another character who is learning to deal with the consequences of his actions – I did wish we saw just a little more of him within the story.
Davis’ use of music and lyrics helps to set the tone in many scenes as each of the characters we meets shares their own tastes. Music anchors all of the characters to the story and to each other and there’s more than one amusing conversation about personal tastes in music that lighten the otherwise heavy subject matter.
Lost Stars is a powerful read and a good reminder that everyone deals with grief in their own way, and that just because we can’t see someone’s personal tragedies, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. We only see what people want us to see.
I gave Lost Stars or What Lou Reed Taught Me About Love 4 out of 5 stars.
(Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy of this book for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)