Looking at the Stars by Jo Cotterill


YA reality fiction


Firstly, it is a personal honour to be writing this review because Jo Cotterill was a teacher in my school – Wychwood! Whilst I wasn’t directly taught by her, my sister was, and being a small school, I knew Jo well. (It is still a bit strange for me not to be addressing her as Ms Cotterill!)

This is my first time reading Cotterill’s work, and I was a bit worried that I would be broken by the end of it. Only because I am so sensitive and emotionally invested in the books I read, that any sort of hard-hitting story, stays with me. But… I have been getting better at branching out of my comfort zone with The Fault in Our Stars, Gone Girl etc, so I was ready for it.

Looking at the Stars is an absolutely powerful story. It is heart-breaking, but it is essential at the same time. It deals with issues that other YA stories do not, there is no fantasy; there is only cruel reality.

We meet two sisters, Amina and Jenna, refugees and separated from their family. Amina creates hope. She is inquisitive and determined, and that is what makes her such a strong character. In such a bleak, tragic and dangerous world, Amina is bringing hope, and I think that is what is most powerful about this novel.

In our real world, we have wars going on, and┬áhave done for several years now; Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria… to name a few. The stories we see on TV, and on the News, are so impersonal because there really are children out there, in these circumstances.

Looking at the Stars forces the reader to feel everything that the innocent civilians must feel every day.

This novel made me cry, hysterically. But I still could not put it down.

I honestly think this novel, and any others like it, are vital for everyone to read. Though it is a story, it is a reminder to us all of the harsh realities of war, and how lucky we are to be safe from it.

Who Is It For?

People (not just children) – especially who love YA, but not just the fantasy adventures. This is hard-hitting; it should be for everyone.

Read Again-ability

Yes… but only if you can brave being heartbroken again



If you loved it, you’ll love

Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns