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A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby - Review

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

I had heard loads of good things about this book on Twitter so when I bought a bunch of books off Waterstones a few months ago I added this as I was intrigued and it was only a few quid. I knew it had fantasy elements which isn't usually my jam, but I was determined to keep an open mind. It turns out that I like fantasy when it is rooted in the modern world but has magical elements, and I don't really like ye olde worlde fantasy when the world is totally different. Now that I know that, I may well choose some more fantasy books to read!

Okay, so the main character here is Safiya. She is thirteen years old and at the beginning of the book lives with her dad. Her parents are divorced and her mum lives in a flat nearby. Her best friend is Elle. Elle and Safi's mum seem to have more in common than Safiya does; they go to the theatre and Safi misses out on buying tickets to a video game convention that she wants to go to. Later, Safiya and her mum have a huge argument and Safiya storms out. 

Then Mum has a stroke and ends up in a coma. Safiya is obviously devastated. She goes to visit her mum, and then slips into a kind of dream world. She's back in her mother's home in Kuwait, where the young Aminah grew up. Safi sees her mum's experiences as a young girl and as she does so begins to unlock more understanding about her mum.

At the same time, Safi's friendship with Elle is in trouble. Safiya has always been very much in Elle's shadow, very much the follower to Elle's leader, but then she learns how to stand up for herself. I loved this aspect of the book - it was so true to how friendship as a young teen is. When it hurts and you're growing, but growing apart. I loved this so much, as well as Safiya's new friends and how precious they were. 

Safiya's dad, James, is white, but her mum is from Kuwait and grew up in a Muslim family. This culture is depicted really richly and in a really beautiful way in the book. I don't know too much about Kuwait but I could picture it perfectly and really liked it. I liked how the narrative wound its way through Aminah's past and things that were precious to her, and how while these things were different to Safiya's interests but she still understood why they were precious - which again is something you have to learn about growing up. 

This is a sold middle grade novel with lovely fantasy elements and strong relationships. I loved the ending. I liked Safiya's relationships with both her parents. My only criticisms are from a writing point of view - there are a few continuity errors that I couldn't help but notice and which annoyed me! But I'm giving this four out of five. 

1 comment

  1. If you like real-world books about young women with a magical/fantastical element, try Among Others by Jo Walton. It's about a teen girl from Wales in the late 70s/early 980s who doesn't get on with either of her divorced parents, has trouble fitting in at her school, and also thinks she has witch magic. It was not what I expected, but good.



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