I cried and let me tell you, it was ugly lol. I enjoyed most part of the book. The beginning was pretty slow and some of the character's actions were a bit annoying but I totally understand that this is a teen book and I'm too old for some behaviours represented here. It is a book about grief, identity, self-discovery, and finding your place in the world in the midst of it all. I can't say much about the gender-fluid rep, but it's there and I liked the way the author talked about it.
I received an advanced copy of Under Shifting Stars from NetGalley, so that I could share my review with you!
Audrey and Clare might be twins, but they share very little. They don’t attend the same school, don’t live in the same room, and they definitely don’t understand each other. The only thing they seem to have in common is the grief they are experiencing after their brother’s sudden death. When he died, it severed the last ties between the twins, leaving them adrift in their own worlds. Audrey is desperately tired of being treated differently because of her neurodiversity. The only path she sees forward is changing who she is completely, so that she can match who the world wants her to be. Meanwhile, Clare is struggling with their gender identity, wondering what it means that some days they wake up feeling more like a boy than a girl. When searching online, they find the term, “gender-fluid,” which makes more sense than anything else so far. Clare and Audrey both feel alone and misunderstood, but maybe their friendship will save them both.
You can get your copy of Under Shifting Stars on September 29th from HMH Books for Young Readers!
What I enjoyed most about this book was its writing style. I found the story to be incredibly readable, and quite compelling. I often struggle with dual-voice stories, as I usually become lost trying to tell the characters apart, but Alexandra Latos absolutely nailed it with Under Shifting Stars! The characters felt well-thought-out and distinctive in their personalities and voices. It was an especially refreshing read due to the fact that I felt equally engaged by both of the main characters.
If you enjoy stories with unique dual-perspective voices, you should read Under Shifting Stars! This book would be a good fit for readers searching for a fictional story dealing with gender fluidity, the difference between sexuality and gender, and the challenges and triumphs of neurodiversity.
Audrey and Clare are non identical twins whose older brother recently died. Audrey goes to a SEN school, and Clare to a mainstream school. Clare is figuring out her identity, and pulling away from her sister, whilst Audrey feels left behind, and is desperate to prove that she can return to Clare's school.
The book is told through both Audrey and Clare's perspectives, with alternating chapters. I liked Audrey immediately. I'm always happy to see a neurodivergent main character, and I thought Audrey was well written and relateable. Her voice sounds a little less mature than Clare's, but it's still clear that she's a teenager, with teenage feelings and desires. Her chapters have no speechmarks, which threw me a little at first, but once I got used to it, it just added to her voice. It took me longer to warm to Clare. I think this was because she is quite hurtful towards Audrey near the beginning of the book. However, after a few chapters I really came to like and understand her.
Under Shifting Stars tackles big topics in an engaging and understandable way. The story is about grief, growing up, sex, gender, school, teenage relationships and learning who you are. Audrey and Clare process their grief in two different ways, and I thought that both were explored well. Clare deals with homophobia, transphobia and losing friends, and Audrey deals with ableist bullying and feeling like she doesn't fit in at her school. I also thought the portrayal of gender identity discovery was very authentic and well written. The twin connection, and growing apart as you grow up reminded me a little of Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson, which I read as a child, although the two stories are otherwise very different.
This book is really sad. It started sad, and, because it was dealing with grief, there was a lot of sadness all of the way through. But it was also a really lovely, moving story. I really cared about all of the characters, and I was rooting for them in their journeys. Both Audrey and Clare get to discover themselves and learn and grow. I highly recommend this book for older teens, and also adults.
A huge thanks to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for an ARC of this in exchange for a review.
Grief is something people deal with throughout their lives. The grief of losing someone never leaves, people just learn new ways to deal with it.
This is the central idea of “Under Shifting Stars;” how people deal with grief and how it changes our lives. In this book, twins Audrey and Clare are dealing with the aftermath of their older brother, Adam’s, death. His death has caused a rift in their friendship which affects their family dynamic, and the grief of losing him has caused each sister to act and feel differently. For Audrey, it’s going to a different school and leaning heavily into art. For Clare, it’s living through her brother and discovering new things about herself she might not have otherwise known.
“Under Shifting Stars” is unfortunately not the memorable book I was hoping it would be. At first, the book makes out Audrey to be this helpless teenager who is bullied constantly for going to a “freak” school, but by ¼ of the way in, I wanted to only focus on her for the rest of the book. Clare starts out interesting but once she started to take on the identity of her older brother Adam, it wandered into very odd and invasive territory.
At the beginning of the book, Clare gets into her brother’s phone and watches the sex videos he and his girlfriend Dahlia had made, which was simply uncomfortable to read and/or imagine. Going further than that, Clare takes her brother’s clothes and even uses his ID to sneak into a bar which is just odd. She does a complete 180 in terms of character and it was not a great reading experience. On top of this, the characters are 15! They’re in 9th grade. It just felt wrong on multiple levels.
On a positive note, this book had a fairly nice message about family, self-discovery, and learning to heal from a traumatic event(s). It’s clear in the book that Audrey and Clare deal with miscommunication which gets resolved later in the book, which calls for a happy ending, though I wish the circumstances as to how they resolve their feelings was a little more natural. I believe that the ending could have also been drawn out more and could have had a deeper emotional impact, but I believe it was one of the better parts of the book nonetheless.
Another great note that I touched on earlier was Audrey’s storyline. I think she has a great story of recovery, coming to terms with grief and coming to terms with yourself. She grows a tremendous amount in the book and I feel that she is the most relatable character in the book.
Overall, “Under Shifting Stars” is a good story about dealing with grief and recovery, but it wasn’t necessarily my favorite. I do think there is an interesting story in Audrey, but Clare’s journey through discovering she’s genderfluid didn’t really leave an impact on me other than that it was kind of uncomfortable to read about at times when you think about the logistics of it. This is a pretty decent book and a quick read though, so if you’re looking for an easier read about a serious topic, this is a good choice for you.
My Final Rating: ⅗ Stars
Under Shifting Stars follows twins Audrey and Clare as they try to adapt to new changes in their lives, new romances all whilst grieving the loss of their older brother and a broken relationship between each other.
I really enjoyed the book, it was written really well and I thought the emotions and the conflicting feelings the main characters were feeling was portrayed really well. Audrey is dealing with a lot of guilt and feels out of place in her new school whilst Clare is exploring gender fluidity at the start of the book and has a lot of anger at life. The book is told in alternating perspectives and I liked that there is focus on their individual lives and also their relationship as sisters and as a family dynamic who are still grieving over the loss of their older brother. The strongest part of the book was how it dealt with the character’s guilt and anger at the loss of their brother and their broken relationship which they find hard to mend.
The characters are younger than I thought they would be, they are 15 and when Clare is finding out stuff/researching about sexuality and gender fluidity it is done in a very factual way – sections from sites/quizzes which I personally thought it could have been written better but I also understand that this is how Clare discovers information I just felt like it could have been included more as a discussion than just information given. Although I liked Audrey’s story at the start it focused a lot more on other characters and less on her emotions which I wanted more off but this does happen more in the second half .
I did think that the start of the book was very fast paced and seems to go over things quickly but the book then deals with them later on at a slower pace. I personally did not like the ending, it felt rushed and a bit too perfect/wrapped up with things happening quickly and I thought there should have been a bit more focus on the sisters relationship in the chapters leading to the ending.
This ended up being just an okay read for me but I really appreciated the themes the book covers. The author has said that she wrote this book to help teens feel comfortable with being “different” and I wholeheartedly support that purpose.
There’s neurodiverse representation and a lot of exploration into gender identity and sexuality that’s really perfect for teens similarly exploring who they are. And at the same time it covers how difficult school is for kids who don’t stick to the “status quo” while allowing the characters to find a way to express themselves and feel comfortable in who they are.
My main issue was that it felt too educational (particularly with the gender identity narrative) rather than a natural progression of someone exploring their identity. There was a lot of google searching and an overload of definitions that overpowered any description of how the character was actually thinking and feeling in this process; a lot of telling rather than showing. I understand that those definitions would be helpful to teens going through a similar process but it read almost like an educational manual.
I did like that the general format of the book with alternating 1st-person narration from the twins, though I tended to prefer Audrey’s narration as it felt much more natural. The only thing with the dual perspective is that because we’re able to know both of their thoughts, the explanatory nature of the book is overkill here.
I can’t speak to the accuracy of either the gender or neurodiversity representation but while I found Audrey more natural, she did come off very young (so much so I thought she was in elementary school when I started reading, not high school!). A Goodreads reviewer commented on the harm of this infantilization for a character with a potential mental disability (though undiagnosed) so I don’t know how neurodiverse readers would react to the character.
It was an interesting read and while it seems from my review that grief isn’t a big part of the story, it is handled really well and is the impetus behind a lot of growth in the characters throughout the book. I also really appreciated the nuance in the gender exploration, with discussions around gender fluidity, finding labels or identifying without, LGBTQ student groups in the schools, and several characters that are already comfortable and confident in their identity. There were just some misses for me in the narrative style and some possible issues with representation.
Under Shifting Stars is the story about Clare and Audrey, fraternal twins who could not be more different. Audrey is neurodiverse, and trying to cope with being sent to a new school. Clare has always been the popular one, until she begins to question her sexuality and gender identity. They are both grieving the loss of their older brother, who was killed in a car accident months ago. Each finds someone that helps them explore who they are and who they want to become.
I enjoyed this book. I felt the characters were well written. The relationships they had with their friends and families felt real, and I enjoyed seeing how they developed throughout the book.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Under Shifting Stars is the story of two twins whose relationship fell apart after their brother died. Clare is struggling with her self identity and sexuality and Audrey is tired of being considered different from her neurotypical peers. On top of that, Audrey blames herself because she thinks she was the cause of her brother's death since he was coming to pick her up from a disastrous karate lesson.
I LOVED this book. I could relate to both characters and I enjoyed watching them grow and find their way back to each other. Even if I'm an only child, books about sisterhood always make me tear up, because I can only imagine how lovely it would be to have someone who just gets you.
I loved how supportive Clare and Audrey's parents were, we definitely need more positive representation!
The writing style kept me hooked and the characters were well-rounded so I would definitely recommend this to anyone who's looking for a book about sisterhood, grief and self-discovery.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an early copy.
I couldn’t finish this book. The quality of the writing was really good but I think that this book just isn’t for me. It sounds really good and probably is great for other people! But it just wasn’t an ideal book for me and I found my self slumping massively and I just couldn’t power through with it
Under Shifting Stars follows non-identical twins Audrey and Clare on a journey through grief, family, and self-discovery. The book is written in alternating chapters told from each twin's perspective and it tells us a diverse narrative of the process of losing a loved one (all the while navigating high school).
Both Clare and Audrey are vivid and relatable characters, each with their own flaws and redemptions. It's hard not to feel impacted by the loss of their brother, Adam, or to feel empathy and compassion as each twin tries to find their place in the world.
Latos brings great representation to the table with various LGBTQ+ characters and characters with learning differences. Whilst deftly handling the topic of how families deal with grief, she also presents the challenge of communicating things you don't quite understand yourself to those who love you, as well as the expectations that many have to put yourself in a box or under a label.
I found the whole novel to be well written and believable and an enjoyable and poignant read throughout.
Despite being marketed as a YA book, Under Shifting Stars has moments that can be meaningful, and relatable, to readers of all ages. Even as someone outside of the target age range, I enjoyed this story a lot both because of the well-written characters, and the lessons about learning to love oneself. Under Shifting Stars helped me remember that self-discovery doesn’t end with adolescence and that it’s okay to continue exploring my identity...
Full review available at butwhythopodcast.com
Overall, I liked this book. I have not read many realistic fiction books with characters who are questioning their gender, or who are gender-fluid. I liked that it was not the main focus of the book but that it was still a big part of the plot.
My biggest complaint is that when reading Audrey's sections, sometimes it was hard to tell when she was thinking something versus when she was actually saying it out loud. I know that it was part of the style and her voice, and lets the reader know that she is neurodivergent right away, but there were several instances where it was hard to tell what was happening.
Overall, I liked the plot and all of the different issues that this book dealt with.
Under Shifting Stars tackled a lot of minority identities and experiences. I admire that the author attempted this, and she's written on her website that the book has been overlooked by sensitivity-readers. Take that how you want, I can't speak for the representation in this book, but it mostly felt nuanced and done with care. Though there were times when the representation of both neurodiversity and gender exploration to me was awkward and inauthentic. There were also a few scenes that didn't sit well with me surrounding Clare's gender exploration and her dead brother.
It's a story about grief and finding yourself. And objectively, I think it covered many real feelings surrounding this. It just didn't work for me. There's definitely going to be people who'll love this book, but I just couldn't connect to the characters or the story.
The writing flowed well, and the two perspectives were distinct and easy to navigate between.
Overall, I just think I wasn't the right reader to appreciate what this book tried to do.
Under Shifting Stars is one of those books that has both things that really didn’t work for me, and things that were done really well, evening out as a lower-end three star rating.
While I’m an advocate for diversity in YA, I’m not a huge fan of first-person POVs when the author does not have true firsthand experience with what the characters are dealing with. In this book, we have two such POVs – there’s Clare, who is trying to figure out how she feels about her gender, and Audrey, who is neurodiverse. That’s quite a bit to tackle in one relatively short book, and in my opinion the author didn’t pull it off that well. Neither of these POVs felt authentic to me, and are quite clunky in places. Instead of seamless representation, we have more of a [insert google search results here] feel that I didn’t gel with, and I found myself wishing the author would’ve limited herself to the grief theme that runs through all of this.
Because that part was, in my opinion, done really well. The relationship between these twins was already becoming strained, and after the death of their brother Adam seems to have snapped altogether. Reading about their struggles to reconnect with each other after a shared loss when neither seems able to look beyond their own grief was very recognizable to me, and I would’ve loved to read about just that. Especially when it also affects the siblings’ relationship with their parents, and the relationship between the parents themselves. There was so much to explore there, but it became more of a sub-theme crushed by the other things the author tried to accomplish within these pages.
Under Shifting Stars also falls on the younger side of the YA spectrum, which might have influenced my overall enjoyment a bit. That’s not the books fault – let’s not forget the target audience here – but I’m very much an upper-YA/adult reader at heart. If you’re someone who enjoys both middle grade and YA, this might not bother you at all.
All in all, a read that managed to scrape together a passing grade, but not one that will stick with me or one that I’ll reread.
Popular Clare and artistic Audrey are twins with nothing in common but the trauma of their brother's death. Audrey is certain everything will be better once she convinces her parents and therapist to let her go to mainstream school with her sister again. But Clare is having enough trouble dealing with mean girls already without having to protect “Oddrey.” She is starting to suspect neither her gender nor her sexuality fit into tidy boxes, and it's a lot to cope with. Their paths to healing are often messy but ultimately uplifting.
Alexandra Latos’ ‘Under Shifting Stars’ has been a heartfelt and amazing real book.
Having younger siblings, twins, who are so different from each other and yet have this unique connection, I love reading about twins. And ‘Under Shifting Stars’ has not disappointed on this account. The interchanging narration between Audrey and Clare allows the reader to see both sisters through each other eyes, and witness first-handed what they are going through. While in the beginning, I wasn’t sure whether I liked the formatting of dialogues in Audrey’s chapter, I’ve grown fond of it as the story progressed. It has given a unique insight into Audrey’s feelings and the way she thinks and behaves.
‘Under Shifting Stars’ is a story that handles so many heavy but important topics: grief and discovering your identity among others. When we meet Audrey and Clare, they are going through so much - they are grieving their older brother’s death, who has passed away in the tragic accident. That affects their already strained relationship as well as the way they interact with anyone else around them. While the book includes typical teenage angst and rebellion at moments, it also puts an emphasis on family, friendship and being yourself. Adam’s death haunts the whole family, and both Audrey and Clare need to learn how to move forward without forgetting their brother. Throughout ‘Under Shifting Stars’, they also discover more about themselves. I especially loved Clare’s portrayal - how she accepts that it’s okay to definite herself as gender-fluid and that ultimately it’s more important to be yourself than fitting in high school.
It has been such a full story, with so many topics and issues coming into play, and making both Audrey and Clare’s portrayal more real. It’s one of the most interesting YA contemporaries I have read recently.
TW/CW: death/loss of a loved one, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, bullying, & guilt
Synopsis: Audrey and Clare may be twins, but they don’t share a school, a room, a star sign, or even a birthday. Ever since their brother Adam’s death, all they’ve shared is confusion over who they are and what comes next.
Audrey, tired of being seen as different from her neurotypical peers, is determined to return to public school. Clare is grappling with her gender fluidity and is wondering what emerging feelings for a non-binary classmate might mean. Will first crushes, new family dynamics, and questions of identity prove that Audrey and Clare have grown too different to understand each other—or that they’ve needed each other all along?
Thoughts: I requested an advanced reader copy from NetGalley and I was so pumped when I was approved. This LGBTQIA+ young adult story is about twins Audrey and Clare growing apart after the death of their older brother. Born of different star signs Audrey and Clare couldn't be more different. Audrey is adjusting to a new school that is better qualified to handle her neurodiverse needs, and Clare is discovering her gender identity. Told in alternating chapters we get to see how both of them are adapting to the loss of their brother, grieving, casting blame, and discovering new things about themselves. You could feel the heaviness in each family member including the parents. Tensions often ran high, and it made for an exhausting reading experience.
I definitely enjoyed Audrey chapters more because she was always thinking of ways to make things right between her and Clare. She was struggling to enjoy her new school, but she was working hard to show that she could improve and overcome her obstacles. Clare's chapters were a bit harder to read especially when she starts watching and re-watching private videos on her dead brother's phone of him and his girlfriend. Just eww! I also didn't appreciate how she felt 100% fine with wearing his clothes and being in his room whenever she wanted, but she was upset whenever Aubrey even mentioned him.
I appreciate the author's attempt at writing a story with sensitive topics and having LGBTQIA+ representation, but it didn't feel as polished as I hoped it would. I tried looking on the author's website to see how they identify and found nothing other than a brief mention of "The writing and editing process was lengthy and involved interviews/conversations with psychologists and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, copious amounts of research, and hiring sensitivity readers with my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt."
Basically I think my rating says it all. There were things I liked and things I didn't, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. This title is set to release on September 29th, 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers.
Hashtags: #UnderShiftingStars #NetGalley
This book was unfortunately a DNF for me. I liked the premise of the book, and I found the voices of the two narrators to be very distinct. I was interested to see what was going to happen. I am giving it 3 stars because it's a DNF but if I had finished it I think I would have rated it lower.v
However, there was something that made me incredibly uncomfortable. One of the main characters, Clare, is trying to understand her sexuality and gender identity. I love discussions like this, but I couldn't keep reading the book to see how it was resolved. One way that she was trying to understand this was a huge breach of privacy and incredibly uncomfortable. She finds her dead brother's phone, which has a video of her brother's girlfriend stripping for him. Clare watches the video over and over and pretends that she is in her brother's position.
This was uncomfortable for a few reasons. One is that her brother has died - I find it so uncomfortable that she is watching this video of her dead brother and his girlfriend. Additionally, this is a huge breach of privacy for the girlfriend. Clare is watching private, intimate videos without consent. This is wildly inappropriate, and I honestly can't believe this was in the novel. It's possible that this breach of privacy is addressed later on in the book, but I couldn't keep reading. I was already a bit disgusted by this, and then Clare later thinks about the night she watched this video and thinks about how it was the first night she got an orgasm. I couldn't keep reading. This was so uncomfortable, problematic, and inappropriate, and I think it could be very harmful for teens to read.
This review is going to be a little different. As a general rule I try to avoid as much spoilery information as possible, but in order to give an accurate review and my true feelings on this book please be aware of spoilers
I want to start by saying as much as I researched I could not find much information about this author. I believe this is the author’s debut and not an ownvoices author for non binary gender fluid representation.
If anyone finds information stating otherwise, please correct me.
I’m tired of reading about non binary stories by authors who could not possibly understand our perspective when there are non binary authors who could have the opportunity. Another way to be successful in writing a character you cannot relate to is hire sensitivity readers. We are out here. I felt more like I was being educated on my own identity then following someone’s story. And the beginning parts that were following the character’s development into their identity made me feel gross.
Everyone who is non binary will have a different experience and different feelings, so please remember this review is how I personally felt as a gender fluid individual.
The Good: Let’s start with the easy part, what this book is about. Under Shifting Stars follows the perspectives of twins Audrey and Clare as they navigate coping with the death of their brother, high school and the relationship they have with each other.
What this book does right, the writing is absolutely beautiful. Never once did I feel a lull or that characters were bleeding into each other. The voices were very strong and individualized and I think this book could have been one of the best books I had ever read had things gone slightly different. The parents were written extremely well and you could feel the heaviness in each family member of the loss of the brother. Half of the book is done in Audrey’s perspective, changing point of views every chapter. I loved everything about the way it was written and the unique perspective. Audrey is, I believe, said to be ADHD and on the Autism spectrum, so though I enjoyed her point of view very much I am not an ownvoice reader for that and cannot attest to it’s accuracy.
The Meh: And then we have Clare. Clare is the other perspective in this book as she goes through her experience learning about gender and how she wants to identify. One of the ways she explored is through research, there’s a lot of Google and some terminology. I thought this was good, but there was too much of the details. I felt like I was being educated on LGBTQ+ terminology and that’s not really a bad thing, but not what I want out of my book. I would have rather definitions been in a glossary format if they are to be included at all. Or even as chapter starters. If I wanted to be educated I would have picked up a nonfiction book and honestly it sucks looking for representation in a character and having to have story taken away for it.
The Gross: Another way Clare explores gender identity is through her dead brother. Some of the flashback scenes were great, but let’s talk about what Clare does in present that makes me feel sick to my stomach. Clare’s brother Adam has not been dead a year yet and she goes into his untouched room find his old phone and locate a home video porn of Adam and his girlfriend. That Clare decides to watch repeatedly pretending she is Adam in the scenario. This is not referenced once, but a few times before Clare deletes the video. Clare then goes back into a room after a bit of time passes and takes her dead brother’s clothing to wear. Then again back into the room and takes the ID out of his wallet and eventually sneaks into a bar using it.
I can relate a bit having taken some of my brother’s old clothing myself when I was trying to find who I was, however my brother isn’t dead. It made my skin crawl.
I just felt really gross reading everything and it angers me slightly as well because growing up non binary I was told all the time that I was having an identity crisis or just a tomboy and this to me presents more of someone trying to be their brother and not like him. Which is something also said directly to Clare by someone bullying her and brought up really old feelings. There is also a lot more bullying that happens that I had to forward through because it was just too familiar and painful.
The second half of the book does get a lot better and had so much character development, however between feeling gross from the beginning with Clare watching the video, to the all too real bullying and the already heavy atmosphere of the book I just felt really drained and exhausted reading this.
Under Shifting Stars is a brilliant novel! It is a coming of age story about twins who grieve their brother's untimely death in divergent ways, which strains their twin bond nearly to breaking point. The characters are alternating narrators who tell their stories from each perspective. Neurodiverse Audrey wants to be "normal" and accepted like everyone else rather than attending the school for "freaks". Her twin, Clare, gradually comes to terms with her genderfluidity even if it means being the target of cruel bullies. Each character's journey is heartfelt and compelling, and the underlying messages of the book are truly important life lessons.
Advanced readers' copy provided courtesy of the publisher via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Available September 2020.