‘Of Scars and Stardust’ by Andrea Hannah ****

The protagonist of Andrea Hannah’s Of Scars and Stardust is Claire Graham, a seventeen-year-old who has moved from Ohio to New York City, in order to try and escape a tragedy in her hometown.  It is the disappearance of her younger sister, Ella, which sparks her return to Amble, the small town which she hails from.

The presence of wolves in Amble is a story widely believed by many of its residents, and is used as a deterrent for many things around the area: ‘exasperated parents used them as a warning for not eating all your peas at dinner – the wolves might be watching, so you better do it’.  The sense of foreboding which goes hand in hand with the very existence of the creatures has been built in a manner which is nothing short of stunning.  Hannah has ensured that her prose becomes taut – and consequently tense – at the most pivotal moments of the novel.

From the very beginning of Of Scars and Stardust, Hannah has set out the personality of her young lead character: ‘I followed.  Because I always followed.’  Her friends view her as sensible and serious, and her best friend Rae asks her, rather early on in her narrative, ‘Can’t you ever just, like, go with the flow, Claire?’.  Claire is the keeper of secrets, sworn to silence when Rae runs away with her boyfriend at the start of the novel.  The relationships between Claire and other characters – whether with Rae’s brother Grant, or her own sister Ella – have been carefully considered.

Throughout, Claire’s discomfort has been perfectly captured, and her many complexities help to build a believable character.  Her behaviour and actions fit well with the situations in which she finds herself, and a lot of thought has clearly been put into her creation.  Her first person narrative voice is strong.  Hannah’s descriptions wonderfully build the sense of place: the cornfields ‘blurred into a smear of brown and dropped over into the cement sky’, for example.  Hannah also places great importance upon each and every character she focuses upon, however small their role in the novel.  Of Claire’s friend Grant, Hannah describes the way in which ‘the freckles on his nose looked just like the Big Dipper, with its handle pointing to his eyebrows’, and of a stranger at a party, ‘His face was drenched in light, like tiny fireflies stuck in the folds of his almost-beard’.

So many themes can be found within Of Scars and Stardust‘s pages – family, loyalty, self-discovery, the notion of coping, love in many guises, assumptions, disappearance and grief amongst them.  Of Scars and Stardust is an intriguing and well written novel, which is sure to absorb any reader.  The pace of the whole is perfect, as is the arc of both the characters and situations in which they find themselves.

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