Brian Falkner, Shooting Stars, Scholastic, 1 Feb 2017, 352pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781775433606
Innocence collides fist first with brutal reality in Shooting Stars, a new novel from Brian Falkner. The latest work from this award-winning New Zealand author packs a powerful punch. This is the private diary of Egan (Bush) Tucker and ‘other stuff compiled by his friend JT’.
An engaging YA story, Shooting Stars tells the tale of a fifteen-year-old boy raised in isolation in the midst of the New Zealand Coromandel wilderness. His mother, Moma, has sheltered Egan from a danger hunting them since their treacherous journey into the wild when Egan was a baby.
Away from the convenience and corruption of modern day society, Moma has instilled a code of ethics in Egan. Moma’s code guides Egan as he faces moral dilemmas. When she disappears, it is Moma’s strength and code at the forefront of all Egan’s actions. He must leave his life in the bush behind to search for the only family he knows. Life in the city, however, is not what he expected. And his code elicits a range of reactions from those he encounters. No amount of preparation could ready Egan for what he will find in the outside world.
The pacing of the story is done well. We are introduced to Egan in the bush prior to his first meeting with another person – ex-soldier, DOC, deer culler and soon to be friend, JT. We experience Egan’s basic lifestyle and are drip-fed information about how and why Moma chose this life for her son.
Egan’s voice is unique. It is that of an isolated boy raised on a diet of Hemingway and Steinbeck. His views are a blend of naivety, wisdom and innocence. He is largely fearless, a strength in the wild but an attribute that brings him trouble in the city.
A compelling story in a captivating setting, this was my first time reading a novel set in New Zealand. The Coromandel Peninsula provides the reader with a beautiful sanctuary in which to meet Egan before we are thrust into the unforgiving underbelly of the city.
Shooting Stars is an enjoyable, gut-wrenching, unpredictable story full of vitality. The mix of writing styles used to tell the tale – diary, poem, short story, reports, lists, letters, articles and illustrations – work seamlessly to bring Egan’s journey to life. It is laced with gentle humour – an innocent boy’s perception of the world jarring with the unforgiving modern world.
This is an excellent read and one that older teen readers will enjoy. The heavy topics touched upon mean the story is not suitable for younger readers. The book deals with themes of survival, responsibility, homelessness, morality, friendship and domestic violence. Shooting Stars is highly recommended for readers aged 14 and over.
Reviewed by Fiona Miller-Stevens