Looking at the Stars

Publisher: Bodley Head

Amina is headstrong and outspoken; sometimes she speaks before she thinks things through and can get lost in her own imagination. This sounds harmless enough but Amina and her family are living under a dangerous dictatorship through a time of national crisis. These actions are seen as rebellion, even a stray smile can get you noticed for the wrong reasons so Amina can't hide her excitement when the 'liberation' arrives to take the power from the Kwana and restore it to the people.

She is sure that a new life is just around the corner, but when her brother goes missing and is feared to have joined the rebels Amina and the rest of her family get a visit from the officials that will tear their lives apart. Amina and her sister set out for one of the country's aid camps that promises security and refuge, but the reality is that too many people are seeking the same things and the camp is just another type of a limited life.

This brutal reality and the tragic story act as a sharp contrast to the free spirit and strong will of our feisty heroine. Amina finds her talents in storytelling, bringing comfort to herself and those around her in their darkest hours. She is honest and brave but remains believable in her acts of defiance.

The stars in the sky are the inspiration for her stories; they are magical and boundless and enchant both the reader and Amina's audience. Violence and the other disturbing images are not dwelled on unnecessarily, but the horror of Amina's situation is clear and present. Like Amina, Cotterill has re-focussed her gaze, and in Looking at the Stars the reader finds a surprising story of family, friendship and hope.

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