Friday 18 September 2015

Counting Stars, Keris Stainton

Pages: 324
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 3rd September 2015
Edition: UK paperback, purchased copy

Anna’s finally ready to be a ‘proper’ grown-up. She couldn’t be more excited about her big move to Liverpool, and she’s determined to bring more of her super-confident online alter-ego, Anna Sparks, with her.

But when her job falls through, following her dreams proves harder than she’d thought…

So instead Anna throws herself into busy city life. Hanging out with her new housemates provides lots of drama and scandal for her vlog – but when a real-life celebrity gets involved, suddenly the consequences of Anna’s online gossiping are all too real.

*Little disclaimer: I do consider Keris a friend of mine, but that hasn’t affected my opinion or review of the novel at all – promise!*

I’m a big fan of Keris and her books so when I discovered she was writing an older novel about a girl leaving home for the first time, I was extremely excited. Justly so, it turns out!

Keris has been a champion of diversity of all kinds in YA for a long time and it really showed in the effortless way it existed in Counting Stars. One of Anna’s new housemates, Sean, is gay, but it's not made a big deal of at all. He’s just a boy who had his heart broken and is attempting to heal it with a crush on a beautiful boy from college. Sean’s sexuality had no bearing on his story or his character and although coming out stories and explorations of sexuality and coming to terms with it are vital, I think this portrayal is equally important.

Counting Stars is a very sex positive novel and it doesn’t shy away from sex scenes or the inevitable discussions that centre around it when a group of 18/19/20 year olds are together, and especially when they’re drunk. The characters all have different levels of experience and attitudes towards sex and not a slither of judgement is passed on any of them. And quite rightly so. But Keris also works in the complications of romantic and intimate relationships by dealing with sexual harassment, damaging relationships, near misses and even inappropriate relationships with sensitivity and honesty.

The close-up third person narration allows the reader to get in the heads of all Anna’s housemates as well as Anna in a way that feels like an effortless switch between narrators and I fell in love with Anna, Alfie, Nina, Molly and Sean equally; flaws and all. I love the dynamic between them and I think that and them finding their feet in the world is what Counting Stars is about rather than the celebrity scandal mentioned in the synopsis. I'd go as far as to say that it’s a little misleading as it’s nowhere near the most prominent or most important aspect of the novel, though it is an important reflection on the dangers of putting yourself and other people onto the internet and social media.

Counting Stars is a wonderful novel of love, life, friendship and sex and to me, this is what New Adult should be. I really hope we see more of this type of novel from Keris in the future. Please?


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