Stars Like Us by Frances Chapman
Every two years, the team at Hardie Grant Egmont opens the inbox for their prestigious Ampersand Prize and encourages the submission of manuscripts of YA and middle grade fiction by unpublished writers. Stars Like Us by Frances Chapman is the triumphant recipient of the 2018 Ampersand Prize, and it is very easy to understand why even just a few pages into this clever, sexy, LGBTQI+ YA novel.
Liliana is a sixteen-year-old guitarist and songwriter. She’s also an exchange student attending the Henley-On-Thames Music Academy in London on a scholarship, far from her home in Sydney and her girlfriend, Ellie. Homesick and filled with longing for Ellie, Liliana meets Carter, the charming, wealthy son of a famous surgeon AND a famous jazz musician. Carter encourages her to audition for his (non-school sanctioned, secret) band – as a vocalist. It doesn’t take long for real chemistry to develop between Liliana and Carter, or for their band to become a success, and things get even more complicated from there.
Before long, Liliana is faced with a difficult choice – between a boy she finds ever more attractive and the girl she loves back home, and between the fame within her reach and staying true to the music that matters most to her.
Chapman has written a smart, sassy and highly entertaining book that absorbs the reader in its messy but perfectly executed drama right from the start. Chapmans' characters are loveable and just flawed enough, her dialogue is authentic, and her skill at crafting a pitch-perfect love triangle is formidable indeed.
I cannot wait to read what Chapman writes next, so it’s fortunate that Stars Like Us is the kind of novel that begs to be read more than once. For ages 13+.