Monday, August 30, 2021

Under Shifting Stars, by Alexandra Latos

Clare and Audrey are twins.  In their family, their older brother Adam was the glue that kept them together.  But when he dies in a car accident, the loss throws off the familial balance.

The girls are not identical.  While Clare is popular at school, Audrey struggles with autism which has led to her being enrolled at a special school.  She hates it and wants to be back at the regular school with Clare, but her parents are not sure that she is ready.  In truth, she doesn't know if she's ready either, but being apart from Clare is so hard, especially now when they are drifting apart.  When she makes friends with a boy in the park, she is surprised to find that she can develop friendships outside of her family.

With Audrey having so many special needs, Clare feels neglected.  The loss of Adam hit her particularly hard and set off a new feeling that she finds hard to articulate.  She feel best when she is wearing Adam's old clothes.  Her "normal" life at school feels false.  She's become as freaky to her old friends as her sister is.  It takes a new arrival at the school to open her up to who she really wants to become and to give her the strength to be the needy sister.

Through alternating chapters, the sisters piece together a life which has been riven by shared loss but held together by their lifetime bond.  Each of them are going through passages that are both personal and shared.  They struggle because they have trouble communicating and in understanding each other.  In the end there is the predictable reconciliation between them, but the journey through these misconceptions is what gives this novel its story.  It's well done, with beautifully drawn characters, but the story is not a particularly dramatic read.  To try to liven it up, the author flirts with a late attempt to add a crisis, but this is unnecessary and contributes to a sluggish conclusion.

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