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ARC Review: Under Shifting Stars by Alexandra Latos

TW/CW: death/loss of a loved one, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, bullying, & guilt

Synopsis: Audrey and Clare may be twins, but they don’t share a school, a room, a star sign, or even a birthday. Ever since their brother Adam’s death, all they’ve shared is confusion over who they are and what comes next.

Audrey, tired of being seen as different from her neurotypical peers, is determined to return to public school. Clare is grappling with her gender fluidity and is wondering what emerging feelings for a non-binary classmate might mean. Will first crushes, new family dynamics, and questions of identity prove that Audrey and Clare have grown too different to understand each other—or that they’ve needed each other all along?

Thoughts: I requested an advanced reader copy from NetGalley and I was so pumped when I was approved. This LGBTQIA+ young adult story is about twins Audrey and Clare growing apart after the death of their older brother. Born of different star signs Audrey and Clare couldn't be more different. Audrey is adjusting to a new school that is better qualified to handle her neurodiverse needs, and Clare is discovering her gender identity. Told in alternating chapters we get to see how both of them are adapting to the loss of their brother, grieving, casting blame, and discovering new things about themselves. You could feel the heaviness in each family member including the parents. Tensions often ran high, and it made for an exhausting reading experience.

I definitely enjoyed Audrey chapters more because she was always thinking of ways to make things right between her and Clare. She was struggling to enjoy her new school, but she was working hard to show that she could improve and overcome her obstacles. Clare's chapters were a bit harder to read especially when she starts watching and re-watching private videos on her dead brother's phone of him and his girlfriend. Just eww! I also didn't appreciate how she felt 100% fine with wearing his clothes and being in his room whenever she wanted, but she was upset whenever Aubrey even mentioned him.

I appreciate the author's attempt at writing a story with sensitive topics and having LGBTQIA+ representation, but it didn't feel as polished as I hoped it would. I tried looking on the author's website to see how they identify and found nothing other than a brief mention of "The writing and editing process was lengthy and involved interviews/conversations with psychologists and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, copious amounts of research, and hiring sensitivity readers with my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt."

Basically I think my rating says it all. There were things I liked and things I didn't, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. This title is set to release on September 29th, 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers.

Rating: ★★★

Hashtags: #UnderShiftingStars #NetGalley