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We See the Stars

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A haunting and deeply moving novel with a brilliant voice in the tradition of The Eye of the Sheep and Jasper Jones.

'Mysterious, compelling and almost unbearably tender.' - Danielle Wood, award-winning author of The Alphabet of Light and Dark

Is that the Big Dipper?' Mum asked. Her eyes were bright from the light in them, and they shone in the darkness more than any of the stars in the sky.

Simon is an eleven-year old boy who lives in a world of silence, lists and numbers. He hasn't spoken for years and he doesn't know why.

Everyone at school thinks he's weird and his only friends in the world are his brother Davey and Superman, who's always there when he needs him.

One day Simon shares his Vita-Weats with Cassie, the scary girl from his class, and a friendship starts to form. And the new teacher Ms Hilcombe takes an interest in him, and suddenly he has another friend as well.

When Ms Hilcombe goes missing, only Simon knows where she is. But he has made a promise to never tell, and promises can never be broken. So now Simon is the only one who can save her.

A haunting and deeply moving novel with a brilliant voice in the tradition of The Eye of the Sheep and Jasper Jones.

336 pages, Paperback

Published July 1, 2018

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About the author

Kate van Hooft

2 books9 followers
Kate van Hooft was born and raised in Melbourne to an Aussie mum and Dutch dad. She lives with her husband Paul D. Carter, also a writer.

Kate has a BA in Creative Writing from Melbourne Uni, a Master of Communications from Deakin, and is now completing a Master of Social Work. She has worked for more than ten years in student wellbeing and disability support in secondary and tertiary education.

As a professional in the disability and education sector, Kate has become passionate about youth mental health and the way current therapeutic trauma frameworks can inadvertently pathologise children, meaning ‘they are not always listened to’.

We See the Stars is her first novel.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 55 reviews
Profile Image for Sharon.
947 reviews182 followers
December 6, 2018
This was a beautifully written story which I felt touched on important topics. Intriguing and moving at times, but I'm afraid there were times when I also felt I got a bit lost and uninterested in the story. In saying that this could've been just me at the time as I'm sure many people who read this book will enjoy it.

So please give this book ago and make up your own mind because, like I said it is a beautifully composed story, it just didn't hold my interest for the entire book. Recommended.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my uncorrected proof ARC copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,092 reviews588 followers
July 3, 2018
Kate van Hooft has created a very special character in 11y old Simon, the narrator of this novel. He is struggling to find his place in the world. He doesn't like physical contact, hardly speaks and is often consumed by attacks of rage that he calls 'the angries.' The kids at school call him names and his only friends are his younger brother Davey and Cassie, another outcast in his class who has a damaged hand and also has to bear the cruel taunts of the school yard. However, he likes his new teacher and she seems to understand him so when she goes missing, he becomes compelled to find her.

This is a sad story that sees Simon dealing with the bad thing that happened to his mother and the disappearance of his teacher. I enjoyed the assured writing in this debut novel and the development of Simon's character and insight into his world. However, I felt that not all the issues raised were resolved as well as they could have been and that some further development might have made for a more powerful ending 3.5★

Profile Image for Marianne.
3,267 reviews115 followers
June 11, 2018
2.5 stars
“If you sit out there long enough just in the tall grass you can basically pretend that you’re the only one left on Earth, and that all the other kids are gone, and that you get to be all quiet and still in just your own ears and skin.”

We See The Stars is the first novel by Australian author, Kate van Hooft. Eleven-year-old Simon lives in a country town with his younger brother, Davey and his dad. Grandma is often there when she’s not visiting Grandpa in the hospital. Simon isn’t like other boys his age: he doesn’t speak, he’s sensitive to touch by others and has to defuse the “angries” by counting, if he can. He doesn’t have any friends except for Davey.

His new sixth form teacher, Ms Hilcombe seems to understand him better than most, and is determined that he will be happy in her classes. She seats him in front of Cassie, a scary girl with a deformed hand. Somehow, they seem to get on together OK. When Ms Hilcombe goes missing, outlandish theories fly thick and fast around the town, but Simon is sure he knows where she has gone. But he made her a promise, so he’ll have to save her alone.

Van Hooft writes beautiful descriptive prose. She conveys Simon’s thoughts and feelings, his anxiety, his anger, his comfort and joy, even his shortness of breath, in a wonderfully imaginative way: the heat on his skin, the bees and their honeycomb inside him, the bird in his chest, the storm clouds around him. She gives him an alter-ego (Superman) to help him out, and lets him see a ghost or two.

Van Hooft’s characters are easily believable; their dialogue is credible and the era is well rendered. Simon’s voice as narrator is so strong, so genuine, so convincing. “My heart was going so fast that I was worried it was going to use up all its beats and run out completely.” This debut novel was heading into 4.5- or 5-star territory. But for all that, the ending is, frankly, a disappointment.

Although the reason for the mother’s absence becomes gradually apparent, it is almost as if the author couldn’t figure out how to resolve the other outstanding issues so, inexplicably, short-changed the reader by taking the easy way out. The reader is left to guess at likely explanations for the unresolved, because in the last forty pages the story dissolves into magic realism. Potential not quite fully realised.
This unbiased review from an uncorrected proof provided by Allen&Unwin
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,864 reviews261 followers
August 20, 2018
Completing a Master of Social Work alongside her work as a disability advisor has put debut novelist Kate van Hooft in good stead for the publication of her first novel, We See the Stars. Kate van Hooft puts Simon, an eleven year old troubled and misunderstood narrator, on the centre stage of her evocative first novel. Simon evokes a unique set of eyes and the reader follows Simon’s journey with a sense of wonder.

We See the Stars brings the moving story of Simon, a young boy who is mute, but fills his days with numbers, imaginary friends and lists. We do not know the reasons for Simon’s silence, but when can guess. While many in Simon’s small town and school believe he is odd, he still has friends in the form of his beloved brother Dave, and another who goes by the name of ‘Superman’. Simon’s world changes when he makes a new friend at school, Cassie, who is another student ostracised by her fellow classmates. The arrival of a new teacher, Ms Hilcombe also helps Simon feel like he isn’t alone in the world. But before Simon can count his blessings, Ms Hilcombe disappears. It is Simon’s secret, he knows of Ms Hilcombe’s whereabouts, but he cannot divulge anything further. It is Simon alone who can rescue her.

Kate van Hooft rises to the challenge of producing a refined piece of debut fiction that casts a perplexing eleven year old at the epicentre of the narrative. For a first time novel, We See the Stars is quite breathtaking, incredibly moving and it is defined by some introspective prose. This one challenged me and made my reading experience full from the moment I opened the book, to the time I closed the back page.

Juvenile narrators are not a new phenomenon, I am reminded of three great novels I read only a year ago, The Choke by Sofie Laguna, To Become a Whale by Ben Hobson and Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. All three of these books changed me as a reader and each book has not left my side. We See the Stars is a book that I feel easily joins these ranks. It is quietly contemplative, refined and stirring. Kate van Hooft does an excellent job of delving deep inside the heart and soul of a misunderstood young boy. There are moments of heartbreak, sadness and clarity. However, van Hooft’s representation of Simon, the main voice of this set piece, is nothing short of astute.

There is a sense of nostalgia that exudes from the pages of We See the Stars. Set in the 1970’s in small town Australia, Van Hooft’s presentation of her setting is incredibly vivid and evocative of the time in which it is set. I was able to firmly grasp the sense of small town single mindedness that exudes from the area in which Simon lives, through van Hooft’s expressive prose. I have a weakness for small town Australians setting of the not too distant past and I applaud van Hooft for getting this aspect of her novel perfectly in sync.

Simon is one amazing, but complicated little soul. I desperately wanted to scoop him up and nurture him! The other side of me wanted to attach Simon with a label, diagnose him and place him in a category of not just simply a ‘weird’ boy. We have come a long way in this department as this book clearly shows. But van Hooft is sensitive and is very methodical in her approach to Simon, she does not place him in a specific box. This aspect of the character of Simon is put aside very effectively. Purposefully I believe, but it is a powerful move nonetheless.

Simon’s interactions with the secondary characters of We See the Stars is both interesting and varied. He is silent with some and animated with others. Kate van Hooft does a fine job of illuminating these segments of her novel. There is a sense of unconditional love between Simon and Dave, a complicated set of relations with Simon and his other family members. Simon’s teacher and a classmate extend the hand of friendship to Simon, allowing him to grow as an individual.

We See the Stars is an intriguing novel, there is plenty to mull over and lots of questions to be asked, which can be perplexing. There are themes in this novel that visibly moved me, such as the treatment of trauma, abuse situations and mental illness. Each of these issues is carefully embalmed by the expert hand of the author, Kate van Hooft. I do warn you, the shut door conclusion may not be to everyone tastes, for me it was fine and seemed to reflect the novel’s intentions well. For others, the lack of closure may send a measure of frustration.

A new figure in the Australian fiction field, Kate van Hooft, has emerged with a sense of determination, humility and a solid understanding of the fragile nature of childhood mental health. We See the Stars opens your eyes to another context of being, with memorable results.

We See the Stars, is book #101 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Profile Image for Dale Harcombe.
Author 12 books288 followers
August 3, 2018
Three and a half stars.
The story is told from the point of view of 11 year old Simon. Simon has a unique and imaginative way of looking at life and describing his feelings. The reader is privy to information that others around him are not as Simon is mostly silent, keeping all his thoughts and feelings inside. That is except when the ‘angries’ come. His mother taught him to try and control the ‘angries’ by counting and it seems to work, mostly. Simon is friendless except for his brother Davey and his alter ego Superman, until Ms Hilcombe sits him in front of Cassie. Cassie is also an outcast with the class scared of her because of her deformed hand. Somehow these two outcasts form an unlikely friendship. When their teacher Ms Hilcombe goes missing, Simon is determined he can find her while at the same time keeping the promise he made to her.
This is an intriguing, if at times confusing, novel. Sometimes it is hard to work out what actually happened or is happening and what is Simon filtering events through his limited view. Descriptions of Simon’s feelings are beautifully portrayed in images that bring the pages alive. The book covers some heavy topics like bullying and abuse among others. I found I simply had to keep reading. The characters are well portrayed and so is the country town setting. I have to admit it brought back childhood memories for me, as I am sure it will for many Aussies, with the Vegemite Vita Weats.
Despite loving most of the book I found the ending just fizzled out. Too much was left in a strange surreal vacuum. Maybe that fits with Simon’s character but it didn’t sit well with this reader. Even though the ending was disappointing, the book is still worth reading though for some of the beautiful language and characterisation. Thanks to Allen and Unwin for my ARC to read and review.
Profile Image for Suz.
1,046 reviews532 followers
March 12, 2021
A really sad story where the two outcasts at primary school find comfort with the other with the understanding that both lack a lot in their lives.

This was not a book I loved, I don't love open endings.

I remember a really cute scene where the lovely little Cassie loves her Vita Weats at recess I think it was bonding with the outcast Simon.

The themes are very sad the lovely teacher becomes a quiet ally, and when she becomes missing this continues on the story. The ending was too open for me, and I found this a bit of an odd book.
Profile Image for Jennifer (JC-S).
2,785 reviews191 followers
July 16, 2018
‘There’s a lot of things you’re not supposed to do, because bad things happen if you do them.’

Simon, the narrator of this story, is an eleven-year old boy. Simon perceives the world differently from most of us, and the story he has to tell us is shaped by those perceptions. He’s asthmatic, he’s silent, he’s been traumatised. Simon uses numbers and lists to help him to manage. He describes the pain he feels internally as a honeycomb of swarming bees or as birds within his chest.

The novel is set in a small town in rural Australia, in the 1970s, some time after the end of the Vietnam War. Simon lives with his father, his brother and his grandmother. The other children at school think he is weird, and his only friends are his brother Davey, and Superman (who is always there when Simon needs him).

Cassie is a girl in Simon’s class, and sits at the desk behind him. Cassie is also an outcast: she has a deformed hand, and most of the other children fear her. This is Simon’s reaction when Cassie speaks to him:

���I felt like my neck was real hot, like when you put bread in the toaster and it glows red and electric and you can’t put your knife in it and the heat comes off onto your hands when it’s cold and dark in the mornings, and Davey isn’t even up yet.’

Cassie and Simon start to develop a friendship after he shares his Vita-Weats with her. And when Ms Hilcombe, Simon’s new teacher takes an interest in him, he speaks for the first time in our hearing:

‘‘I like your class,’ I said, but quietly.’

But there’s more to Simon’s life than school. There’s a mystery around his mother, tension between his father and grandmother, which increases after his grandfather’s death. Simon shares what he sees but seems unable to analyse, unable to differentiate motivation. Simon’s idiosyncratic view of the world could make him seem to be an unreliable narrator, and because the reader cannot question him directly it’s difficult to put all the various pieces of Simon’s story together.

When Ms Hilcombe goes missing, Simon is sure he knows where she is. But he can’t tell anyone, because he made a promise to Ms Hilcombe. To keep his promise, Simon goes looking for her.

Once I picked this novel up, I found it very difficult to put it down. I found it difficult to understand Simon’s view of the world at times, but it felt so real. Simon’s perception is coloured by trauma, interpreted through filters. I wanted to understand some of the events of his past. I wanted to understand what had happened and why. And, as I struggled to make sense of Simon’s world, I thought about how difficult it can be for children (even non-traumatised children) to make sense of the world around them. In this novel, Ms van Hooft has created a view of a world which will be difficult for many of us to understand. Simon doesn’t need to make the same sense of it as we (readers) do. He has his own ways of dealing.

This is a novel which will stay with me for a long time. A challenging story, beautifully written.

‘It gets dark quicker than you think I will, and even with the torch it’s hard to see where we’re going.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Profile Image for Amber.
438 reviews72 followers
August 9, 2018
2.5 stars This fell a bit flat for me. It read more like a Y.A book and I’m not sure if that was the author’s intention. The ending was too vague for me .
November 22, 2018

We See the Stars by Kate can Hooft. (2018).

**Did not finish - read 130 of 326 pages**

Simon is an 11 year old who doesn't talk. Everyone thinks he's weird and his only friends are his brother and Superman. He starts to make friends with a scary girl from school, and the teacher is also interested in him. But then the teacher disappears and only Simon knows where she is but he promised to never tell...so now he is the only one who can save her.

Unfortunately I just couldn't get into this at all and so after reading over a third I did give up on it. The narrator is Simon who appears to be autistic or something along those lines (not that this was said outright so I have made that assumption). The author has written beautifully and the imagery is incredible in relation to how Simon feels in his body. However the story jumps around a fair amount from Simon's perspective and it was just pretty confusing to me. I just couldn't really make heads or tails of it so stopped reading. It did make sense in parts, just overall it wasn't holding my attention.

I used to feel bad when I didn't finish a book but now I figure life is too short to force yourself to continue something you aren't enjoying and it's ok to just stop. And it doesn't mean others won't really enjoy this book just because it wasn't working for me :)
Profile Image for Kerri.
218 reviews28 followers
August 9, 2018
Although there were many parts I enjoyed in this book for the beautiful writing, on the whole I found the story incredibly confusing. When the story drifted off with Simon's thoughts, I found myself drifting off and not really taking in what was happening, I had to read several passages over again. For me the story didn't flow and I still have no idea about what really happened to several characters in the book. Maybe it's me, and I just wasn't paying enough attention?
Profile Image for Natty.
114 reviews2 followers
July 19, 2018
We See The Stars is a great read by Kate van Hooft. I enjoyed following Simon through his own words and the circumstances that surround him in his world..
I loved the description of imagery used to describe Simon's emotions and how he makes sense of the world... Cassie is another character I adored in this story and the friendship that forms between her and Simon...

I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending whether i like it or not, however in saying that this story has stayed with me after I have finished it... it's with thanks to Allen & Unwin for my review copy, a new author discovered for me..
Profile Image for Kerrin Wed.
2 reviews
June 13, 2018
I received an Advanced Review Copy of We See the Stars.
We See the Stars is the story of Simon, a boy aged 11 years who doesn't speak due to trauma. He likes to live in his own world, but this creates a difficulty for him in that it means he has trouble connecting with others. He has past behavioural problems that have also isolated him.
The book is about Simon, and about how he comes to grips with the world around him. His decisions, leading up to a heartbreaking ending of poignancy and despair, is a shame for all the adults in the book who failed him.
This is not a crime novel where everything gets tied up neatly in the end. This is about loss and failure and about the way a young boy has to come to grips with that. It's profound and sad and the way you get to travel into Simon's head and see the world the way he sees it is stunningly well done. I couldn't put it down, and I'll be thinking about it for a long time.
July 8, 2018
Van Hooft’s handling of her narrator’s smudged perceptual world is virtuosic. I was so engrossed in Simon’s quest that the novel’s modernist and Australian-Gothic layers only glowed in the reading’s aftermath, like a comet’s tail. Is this YA or experimental literature? Fabulism or psychological realism? A lyrical, genre-stretching debut.
383 reviews16 followers
August 4, 2018
Simon is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in a world of silence, lists and numbers. He hasn't spoken for years and at times lives in a fantasy world.
We See The Stars is set in rural Victoria where Simon lives with his Dad and younger brother Davey, and also his Grandma who spends much of her day at the hospital with Grandad.
School is not easy for Simon as the other kids think he is weird and at times he feels his only friends are Davey and Superman who is always there when he needs him. Simon is often bullied and he has a variety of coping mechanisms when he begins to feel overwhelmed.
“I tried to go invisible. I tried to turn into air. I stood right where I was, right there on the spot , while it all just kind of played out around me, and I felt heavy in my tummy when the noise came up over the top of me and broke over my head”.
One day Simon shares his Vita-Weats with Cassie, a girl from his class with a physical disability who has also faced ridicule, and a friendship starts to form. Their new teacher Ms Hilcombe also takes a special interest in him, and it is while he is at her house he begins to talk again.
“ I like your class’ I said, but quietly.
‘Oh Simon!’ she said, and her voice came out all in a rush of air. ‘Did you just….?’

This book is listed in the Mystery/Crime category but the author takes the reader on a fantasy journey with Simon as he searches for Ms Hilcombe when she goes missing, while at the same time Simon seems to be the only person in his household who visits his mother in her bedroom.

Kate van Hooft was born and raised in Melbourne and lives there with her husband Paul Carter, also a writer. She is currently working as a disability advisor at Swinburne while finishing a Master of Social Work. She has worked for more than ten years in student wellbeing and disability support in tertiary education and is passionate about youth mental health. We See the Stars is her first novel and will appeal to a wide age range of people especially those working in the disability field.
The novel is a beautifully written, gentle, compelling read and drew me in from the beginning, Simon’s thoughts giving the book a haunting appeal which kept me turning the pages. Mystery and fantasy combine as the story progresses into escapism keeping the reader guessing right to the end and beyond.

Profile Image for Clare Rhoden.
Author 21 books38 followers
October 15, 2018
This is an amazing book, and it is indeed haunting. The voice of Simon, our eleven-year old protagonist, is clear and moving despite his confusion and his dissonance with the world. His unreliable narration exactly evokes the experience of trying to interact with a child who does not operate in the 'normal' parameters. As the portrait of a child with different mental states, this novel is very effective. I found it as touching and eye-opening as the BBC series 'The A-Word' (about a child diagnosed with autism).
Overall, the story is unput-downable, but it also raises more questions than it answers. In some ways, it is a handful of books in one: the story of Simon, the different, elective-mute child; the story of his Mum's disappearance and the family fights about that; the story of his Grandpa's dementia;the story of Simon's friend Cassie and the dysfunctions of her family; and the story of Simon's teacher's disappearance.
It's also one of those books that a reader can take any way they like. For me, I think the indefinite ending means that Simon is dead and has joined his dead mother, and that the teacher is dead too. Who can say?
There are many confusing plot points, so it's quite difficult to say what the 'real' story is - and everything is mediated through the unreliable narration of Simon, so we never actually find out:
did Simon's Mum die of a late miscarriage? is she alive somewhere in the town - if not, who is the woman that Simon and his dad drive to go and watch through her windows? Why is there so much domestic violence in Cassie's home, and what happened to her - we imagine she went off to live with her gran, but we don't know. Domestic violence seems to be behind the disappearance of Ms Hilcombe as well (why do so many authors kill pet dogs off?). What is the fight about between Dad and Grandma over Grandpa in the nursing home? Did Simon's action cause his Mum's death (if she's dead)? Did he badly injure or even kill his Grandma when he has an 'angry' towards the end of the novel?
In fact, Simon really has just too much to deal with in the space of one book!
It's difficult to get a hold of the story, but that is quite true to the character of the narrator. I would love this author's follow-up novel to give us more info from the point of view of one of the other characters.
Fascinating read, highly recommended- so many talking points!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
3 reviews
June 13, 2018
Simon lives with his father, grandmother and brother in a small country town. His mother is also present in a mysterious way. There are many unknowns as we look at Simon’s world through his eyes, and things may not be as he describes them. Is his view of his world a mirror or a prism? But we must not be deceived into thinking that this is a mystery novel with a solution at the end.

The writing in this book is nothing short of beautiful. The country town in which Simon lives is drawn realistically but his world is an uneasy amalgam of his own perception and the events that occur to him. The characters are sensitively drawn from Simon’s unique perspective. Van Hooft’s writing is rich in visual description both of the external environment and of Simon’s inner life. Her dialogues are very natural and she refuses to psychoanalyse or explain any of her characters’ motivations. The descriptions of Simon’s emotional and physical state are poetic and compelling. The reader cannot but feel his pain and his anxiety.

It is only at the end of the book that the puzzles raised in Simon’s mind about his family and his teacher are resolved. Although the ending does not answer all the reader’s questions, it does not feel contrived and remains faithful to Simon’s singular perspective. It is, in short, a stunning ending that will leave the reader devastated (although some may possibly be frustrated). I couldn’t put this book down.
716 reviews12 followers
June 1, 2018
I received this book from Allen & Unwin

Such a collection of interesting characters. Simon is 11 and does not speak. Yet he does speak to Superman. Grandpa is in the hospital and Grandma is coming over to look after Simon and his younger brother Davey. Dad is often working and mum is in the bedroom, which sounds empty.

It isn't easy to have friends when you do not speak, but Simon develops a friendship with Cassie, who has a melted hand. Everyone at school is scared of Cassie and there are lots of stories at school about her melted hand.

When Ms Hilcombe, Simon's favourite teacher goes missing, Simon decides to go and find her. He could hear her, but she goes quiet. The important thing is that Simon keeps looking.

Quite a puzzling book that will keep you wondering what will happen next.
Profile Image for Felicity Akins.
24 reviews2 followers
June 20, 2018
I was lucky enough to obtain a copy of this book from Allen & Unwin - thank you!. I had mixed feelings while reading this book and also now that I’ve finished, feelings are still mixed. I really wanted more back story and further development of the other characters, but understand that the story was Simon’s and was based on his memories and emotions. His character pulled at my heart strings - he was lost, angry and lonely. The author projected this wonderfully.
Profile Image for Amanda Doyle .
1 review1 follower
September 25, 2018
Promising storyline, but as the book went on alot of the characters were undeveloped and it became very obscure. Towards the end it was confusing and the ending fell flat. It left alot of unanswered questions for the reader.
Profile Image for Karen.
92 reviews
September 7, 2018
I enjoyed learning about the main character's personality in this novel. Well written and thought provoking
Profile Image for Marcia.
96 reviews1 follower
August 19, 2018
I absolutely loved this debut novel by Kate Van Hooft, I was really looking forward to reading it from the blurb, and it didn't disappoint.

The story is seen through the eyes of Simon, an 11 year old boy who has not spoken for many years and lives in his own super sensory world. At no point is a diagnosis given but it can be construed that Simon is on the Autism Spectrum with a high level of synaesthesia (a neurological trait or condition that results in a joining or merging of senses that aren't normally connected. The stimulation of one sense causes an involuntary reaction in one or more of the other senses. For example, someone with synaesthesia may hear colour or see sound).

It appears that Simon's mum avoided getting a diagnosis for Simon, perhaps from a fear that he would be prevented from attending mainstream education. His Grandma takes him to see a specialist behind his parents back and the description of Simon's confusion when asked to point to which facial expression describes him is heartbreaking.

Being different makes Simon a target at school and his only friends are his younger brother Davey, and Superman, who only he can see.

Then a new teacher arrives, Ms Hilcombe, who seems to really take an interest in Simon and want to understand him (as evidenced by the books she is seen to borrow from the library). When the class is set a partnered project Ms Hilcombe pairs Simon with Cassie, the only other child in the class who sits at a single not a double desk. Cassie has her own issues, at some point it appears that she has been badly burnt leaving her with a deformed and discoloured hand and, as Simon discovers when he goes to Cassie's place in the holidays to work on the project, a mother who is pathologically paranoid about Cassie having any interaction with boys.

When Ms Hilcombe goes missing, Simon knows where she is, but he's promised not to tell, so the only thing he can do is try to find her himself, with the help of Superman and Arnold (and you'll have to read the book to find out who Arnold is!).

Although the time and place is not specified I would hazard a guess that We See The Stars is set in the early to mid 1970's, cars have bench seats and no seat belts, kids play by spinning on the Hill's Hoist in the back garden, the children's project is set about the Vietnam war, and the local library has newspapers with articles on the war, and domestic violence and PTSD are neither acknowledged or understood.

We see the stars is a brilliantly written book from the eyes of a child who experiences the world "differently.." Characters are beautifully developed and the storyline rings true for the period. The description of experiencing a severe asthma attack is brilliant and from my perspective the ending is just perfect. If you can allow yourself to suspend how you see the world and allow yourself to see the world through Simon's eyes then it all makes sense.

Thank you so much to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read and review this book, I give it 5 stars.
Profile Image for Carole.
827 reviews10 followers
November 9, 2018
It was interesting to read a book written solely from the perspective of a young boy with a different view of the world, but I found it a bit much. I think some sections from another perspective might have made it more readable. Having said that though, it is a beautifully written novel about friendship and family and grief.
Profile Image for Katherine.
20 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2018
This is a beautifully written and compelling story. It's absorbing and heartbreaking and thought provoking. The main character is an 11 year old boy called Simon who is isolated from his peers as different and weird, and misunderstood or overlooked by the adults around him. His strong inner voice draws you into his highly sensory, fragmented and hyper-real world and sinks you deep into mysteries that I feel will continue to resonate long after reading.
Profile Image for Angi Mcauley.
5 reviews2 followers
August 1, 2018
Very cleverly written! So beautifully descriptive and a storyline that had me hooked instantly! I really enjoyed reading this book but I felt that the story wasn’t really resolved and the ending left me hanging. Maybe that was the idea!?
Great read! Thank you Kate Van Hooft!
8 reviews
July 7, 2018
11 year old Simon is different from the other children in his town and lives very much in his own imaginary world. Overwhelmed daily by his emotions, we get glimpses of a family tragedy that has compounded his isolation. Cassie , another outcast, pushes her way into his life and becomes his only real friend. Their new teacher ,Ms Hilcombe, seems to understand them both but when she disappears in mysterious circumstances, it is only Simon who can find her, for only he knows her secret. I thought that the characters were realistically portrayed and I had a particular fondness for Cassie. However, the fact that Simon was the narrator meant that it was very difficult to establish what events were actually happening and what were in Simon's imagination. I was annoyed by inconsistencies in the story ,for example : Cassie has no posters on her wall then Cassie is taking down the posters on her wall ! The ending was really annoying too as it felt like an attempt to give a fairytale ending to what can only be seen as a tragedy.
3 reviews
July 16, 2018
This is masterful story telling. Van Hooft restricts herself to the insights of a traumatised eleven year old, Simon, and yet paints a complex picture of a family in crisis. She also conveys the tensions within a small town, rich v poor, established residents vs newcomers, using this same restricted palette. As readers, we get the bare bones of the story from Simon, and what is revealed in the ending allows us to put ‘meat on the bones’. Along the way we meet a variety of well-drawn characters and wonderful dialogue. To some extent this book reminds me of Julian Barnes, A Sense of an Ending, in that the reader has been given clues throughout but the full picture which is revealed at the end still comes as a surprise.
2 reviews2 followers
October 27, 2018
I loved the writing, but the ending just left me confused honestly. I have so many unresolved questions.
Like who was the dad spying on?
What acutally happened to the teacher?
The mother? Just woke up? I AM SO CONFUSED.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
404 reviews8 followers
December 16, 2018
A very remarkable story. Van Hooft has an excellent ear for voice, age and mental disability so that the characters she creates come alive with the briefest of introductions. The book is written in the first person from Simon’s point of view, but Simon is very unusual and his homelife is challenging (as his mother remains uncommunicative and mainly asleep in her bed). Simon is asthmatic and refuses to speak, he has autistic manifestations but also has alter-egos or imaginary friends one of whom dresses as superman and another who is the ghost of an old man, called Arnold. Despite his cantankerous grandmother but fortunately with the support of his father and younger brother Davey, Simon manages to get nearly through primary school.
Simon’s life is a constant struggle as we see and hear him attempt to make sense of the world around him, deal with school bullies and start to make friends with Cassie (an abused child) who is also different. Simon relates well with his new female teacher and he inadvertently learns about her previous personal relationship but promises not to tell anyone.
The story is told with humour and empathy so that the reader is sharing and caring about Simon, his family and their hopes for a better situation. The last few chapters are otherworldly as Simon and his ‘companions’ struggle to find their way in the bush and the reader is left in a dreamlike scenario that is a blend of reality and Simon’s narrative.
Profile Image for Jacqui Ryan.
11 reviews
January 31, 2019
Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin for the chance to read and review “We See the Stars”. This is a powerful first novel from Kate van Hooft. It is evident that Kate has a background in Disability Services with the empathy that come through for the main character Simon
This book is set in Australia in the 70’s. It centres on and is told by Simon, an 11 year old non verbal boy. Australia back then was a different place. It is evident that domestic violence and autism were not supported as much as they are today
Through Simon’s eyes we see his relationships with Cassie (an unlikely friend), his family and his teacher Ms Hilcombe. Simon sees things in a different way and this is beautifully portrayed by the author.
This is a poignant debut novel. It brilliantly shows how different people see the world. The ending will leave you with many unanswered questions. A novel that will open your eyes and hopefully help you embrace the differences of others
Profile Image for Alice Dowden.
132 reviews2 followers
February 18, 2019
This was a disappointing read. I feel the whole narration through the eyes of autism is a little tired and overdone. The author had a challenge before her to add something worthwhile to this genre, but I feel Stars missed the mark. Parts of this style did evoke fleeting tenderness towards some of the characters, but came at a great cost to every other element of the novel.

It would have been more effective in third person because the story and character development was completely lost in the sensory perspective of Simon.
I was initially intrigued by the time and context of the novel, and hoped the author could shed interesting perspectives on these factors, but again, the novel failed to do so.

I confess I found myself almost skimming the last third, counting down the pages to the end. When the ending finally arrived, I had lost complete interest in any part of the plot or its characters.

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