Book Review: A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby

This beautiful book broke my heart.

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About the Book

When I next open my eyes, I’m back . . . in front of the house again.
It’s night time. The stars wave hello, like they’ve been expecting me.
The door of the house, Mum’s house, is wide open, like it expects me too.
This time, I go inside . . .

Safiya and her mum have never seen eye to eye. Her mum doesn’t understand Safiya’s love of gaming and Safiya doesn’t think they have anything in common. As Safiya struggles to fit in at school she wonders if her mum wishes she was more like her confident best friend Elle. But then her mum falls into a coma and, when Safiya waits by her bedside, she finds herself in a strange alternative world that looks a bit like one of her games. And there’s a rebellious teenage girl, with a secret, who looks suspiciously familiar . . .

My Review

Safiya and her mum have issues in their relationship with each other. Safiya’s mum doesn’t share her interest in gaming, she wants her daughter to have more high brow interests like the theatre and often seems to get on better with Safiya’s best friend.

Then mum ends up in a coma, and Safiya finds herself desperately wishing things were different. This book is the ultimate “I wish I’d said something different the last time we spoke” story. Safiya is heartbroken that their last words were cross ones and refuses to accept there is any world or future in which her mum won’t survive this.

She finds a bracelet at her mum’s house and then starts on a mission much like the video games she enjoys playing. Safiya thinks if she can work out how to play the game she can bring her mum back, and she tries really hard. The parts where Safiya is playing the game are really clever. I loved these bits – the magical realism of it and the fact that it’s something specific that takes her into the world. It’s a very sensory and whole body experience.

Through this world, she learns so much about her mum by unlocking things. It gives her a way to connect with her mother in a way she can’t in her real life.

Another thing I loved about this book was the exploration of friendship. Safiya’s friendship with Elle becomes strained. They’re growing up and growing apart as friends. They are developing different interests as they grow, which is so sad to read, but also incredibly relatable. As Safiya is making new friends who share her interests, it makes the gap between Elle and her seem much wider. In part, this is a story about friendship and finding your people. And also about Safiya standing up for herself and being true to who she is and not who others want her to be.

A Pocketful of Stars is one of the most beautiful and heartwarming middle grade books I have ever read. If you’ve not picked it up yet, please do. You will not be disappointed.

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