Times have changed in YA bookland. Counting Stars, by Keris Stainton, reads more like a Lisa Jewell adult novel to me – and that’s a compliment. I’m quite sure there will be many young adults who will enjoy indulging in the multi-character, layered plot. It’s kind of like Friends in book form – and in fact, the TV show is referenced once or twice.
We’re in Liverpool, in a house share. New girl Anna has finally escaped her stifling home life on the promise of a shiny new job at a theatre. Circumstances bring her to the house which is already home to a range of interesting people: Alfie, the handsome workaholic; Molly, the ditzy vulnerable one; Nina, the outgoing girl who’s got herself into an abusive relationship; Sean, the gorgeous gay one who almost ends up in a whole heap of trouble.
It’s a lot of fun – although I admit that it took me a while to get into the book because I’m not good with big casts and I lose track of who’s who. Once I’d figured it out though, I really enjoyed the story. It’s warm and funny and witty, and very adult in tone – the references to sex and swearing are frequent and casual, just as they are in real life. And the characters all being over 18 meant that we aren’t actually dealing with a lot of teenage angst but we’re more focused on young professionals trying to navigate their way in the big wide world for the first time: jobs, relationships, mistakes and all.
Anna is our main protagonist, and she has a side hobby that none of her new housemates knows about: vlogging. It gives her confidence, putting on a new persona, and she sometimes talks about the people she’s living with now. It’s not really a spoiler to say that at some point in the book, this hobby is exposed, and Anna has to face up to some awkward moments. I actually felt that this part was less traumatic than it might have been. Like in Della Says OMG!, Keris’s first novel, I think the protagonist gets off pretty lightly. I’d have dropped Anna off a much higher emotional cliff, I think – but maybe that’s just my natural evil side coming out ;-)
Counting Stars is a great read and I’m so glad I took it on holiday with me last week. I can see an enthusiastic blogger creating a ‘Which Counting Stars Character Are You?’ because there is that temptation to identify with one or other of the five! As for which one am I? Well, that’d be telling :-)
Counting Stars is out on 3rd September, published by Hot Key.
PS. The bit with the Furby is genius.