Book Review: When Stars Are Bright

Book Review: When Stars Are Bright

For Lina Holt, a Dutch seventeen-year-old with a flair for singing, 1930 is going to be her year.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

When Stars Are Bright

Author: Amber R. Duell
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Crescent Sea Publishing
Page Count: 344
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Romance, Historical Fiction
Cover Artist: -
My Rating: ★★★

When Stars Are BrightWhen Stars Are Bright by Amber R. Duell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book via the author, Amber Duell, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.

description

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

description

Content Warning: Abduction, Physical & Emotional Abuse, Bystander Effect, PTSD, Profanity

The Statue of Liberty stands proudly in the distance. I shudder at the sight. She may be a sign of freedom to millions of people, but not me. I’m a prisoner here, trapped an ocean away from home with nothing more than a small sliver of hope and an increasingly flawed escape plan. The only time I want to see this statue again is when I’m sailing away from it.


Thumbelina was my favorite Disney movie when I was little. I didn’t understand all of it back then, in all honesty. It’s quite a dark tale–a girl wanted by everyone for her voice. But that tiny girl’s intoxicating voice held me captive back then. I think what made Thumbelina slightly confusing in my young mind was that she didn’t react to what was going on around her. To me, her near-indifference didn’t make me feel like anything was truly wrong. The only thing she cared about was finding her fairy prince. Lina Holt, the representative of Thumbelina in When Stars Are Bright is so well depicted, and absolutely brings this character to life. Lina undergoes several traumatic experiences and has PTSD to prove it.

When Stars Are Bright begins in Holland. Lina, a seventeen-year-old, has grown up humbly with her mother working the tulip fields. She’s always loved to sing, but had been warned against it by her mother as it draws unwanted attention. Even if it’s against the laws of propriety, Lena has fallen in love with Christian Van Buren, the incredibly wealthy heir to a petroleum fortune. Against her mother’s wishes, Lena sneaks around with Christian, and expects his proposal soon. While his intentions are the same, his family doesn’t approve of Lena, either. The situation grows dire when Lena occompanies Christian to a family event, and is labeled as a gold-digger. Distraught, Lena heads home. On her way, she’s abducted by a slimey man that had been following her around, commenting on her voice.

Forced onto a ship sailing for the United States, Lina is desperate to get back home. No one knows what happened to her, and she doesn’t know what this man’s intentions are. No matter how she begs people for help, they don’t believe her. This is one of the most shocking moments in this story, and shows how terrible the Bystander Effect can be.

I’m not sure what shocks me more: being kidnapped in the first place, or people’s reaction to the obvious abuse I’ve endured. There are many people standing around–unlimited witnesses to a crime. Do they not know what they’re seeing? Do they really not care?


While much of this reaction to Lina’s torment was due to the era in which this was set, it also gives a profound look into how dangerous failing to intervene in a person’s situation can be dire. Lina suffers from PTSD after the experience for a long while.

Once landing in Depression-riddled New York, Lina is thrust into singing in a Vaudeville show in order to earn enough wages for a fare back to Holland. She meets Nik, a pianist in the show who is the only one that shows her kindness. She learns along the way that her ability to sing is tributed to something she had no idea existed. Time passes, and Lina begins to believe that she’ll never make it back to Holland, and that Christian has forgotten about her. Nik, however, grows to be a close and steadfast friend in his stead.
The ending is certainly a sorrowful one. It isn’t a happy one for everyone, and definitely will leave you with heartache. Twisting these character’s position from the original story was so effectively done and created such a bittersweet finale that will leave you in tears. I would have loved to have more of a look into how deeply the Depression affected New York during the time, but still loved the result of this story.

Vulgarity: Some.
Sexual content: Kissing.
Violence: Moderate (see content warning.)

My Rating: ★★★★

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I am the author behind Foals, Fiction & Filigree. An all-encompassing blog about horses, books, and my art.

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