I absolutely adored this book! Follow the Stars is a sweet, tender and emotional story with a main character on the spectrum who is trying to navigate his way in life after the death of one of his best friends. I loved the extra dimension with the neurodivergent representation, but most of all, I loved it for being such a gripping story about overcoming grief and finding love where you never expect it.
Follow the Stars has such a wonderful main character, Noah, who is on the spectrum. Noah has had two best friends, Rory and Ezra, who has loved him unconditionally and been his support system almost his whole life. But when Rory dies because of her cystic fibrosis, Noah feels completely lost and not being able to put words to his feelings without Rory’s guidance and help to explain the world. When Ezra suggests that he and Noah should fulfill Rory’s biggest dream and go on the road trip that the three of them had planned for years, Noah feels terrified and worries that the connection he has with Ezra will be lost without Rory helping them to communicate. Ezra on the other hand fears he won’t be able to hold back his feelings and will risk losing his other best friend too by letting him know how deep his love really is.
“If you follow your heart, can you find love as bright as the stars?”
Or will the road trip break the friends apart forever?
Gwen Martin did such an amazing job explaining the way a neurodivergent person experiences the world differently. As she pointed out in the introduction, Noah is just one representation of someone on the spectrum though, so of course there are million other ways to portrait a character with neurodiversity, but it was so well done and with such knowledge that you could really tell that Gwen Martin knew about this first hand and had put a lot of effort into the representation.
I also really loved the slow burn relationship development and how Noah was allowed to experience all these new feelings at his own pace. A part in the middle of the story dragged a little bit and at times I had some issues with the main characters age. They were supposed to be college graduates, but the way the interacted and depended on their parents made them sound more like high schoolers. But those are just minor details!
All in all, this was such a wonderful, gripping and authentic story about the world from a slightly different view and how much you can hurt even if you don’t express your feelings the same way others do. I really loved this heartwarming and hopeful story about overcoming grief and finding love and hope again and about being brave enough to risk losing it all for a chance of happiness.
Thank you to the author Gwen Martin for the opportunity to read this book in advance! I’m so happy it’s now out in the world for everyone to read!
4.5 shining stars rounding up to 5
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Happy Book Birthday to Chasing Hope by Gwen Martin! I’m so happy and honored to be a part of the Gay Book Promotions Release Blitz for this heartbreaking and beautiful book that is full of pain and hope, grief and joy, loss and love, and amazing characters!
Chasing Hope is of the most authentic stories I’ve ever read about the devastating grief and guilt, and how to find the strength to go on living, after being through the worst thing that can happen to a parent; losing your child. But at the same time as it dealt with all this hurt and loss, it was also such a sweet and heart-warming small town, second chance, m/m romance. I binge-read this book with an aching heart, unable to put it down until I knew what would happen to Sean and Jonah, sobbing and smiling at the same time.
The story follows twenty-seven years old Sean, who - despite his young age - has already lost everything worth living for. In an attempt to get away and build some kind of new life, he moves to a town where no one knows about him, the death of his child, or his failed marriage. Here, his life collides with the almost forty, somewhat disillusioned, owner of the local diner, Jonah, who had to give up on his university plans and move back home to take care of his dying father. But when the two of them meet, Jonah finds a new spark in his life, and Sean slowly starts to smile and feel again. Maybe there is hope after loss and a chance for love again for them both?
This book deals with a lot of heavy topics, such as loss of a child, guilt and grief, PTSD, depression and trust issues, but it was so wonderfully written and had so much hope, love and heart-warming friendships that it never felt too heavy. No matter how raw and authentic the descriptions of how devastating and life-shattering the loss of a child were, it was never all darkness and sorrow, there was always a hint of light at the end of the tunnel.
And the characters were amazing and so real and multifaceted. And adorable! I rooted immediately for both Sean and Jonah and my heart ached for them both in their struggles with insecurity and fear to open up and be brave enough to love again. Sean’s bisexual awakening and his feeling of being on thin ice and not really knowing what to do - of being something of a virgin again when being intimate with a man - was so well and realistically described. As was his feeling of guilt for being happy when his daughter was dead, and the way he reacted to certain triggers. I understand why Sean acted the way he did in some of the situations (trying to keep it vague here not to spoil anything…) but it nevertheless broke my heart and made me read the book feverishly, hoping for the HEA both Sean and Jonah deserved so much to come, but fearing that all the broken things wouldn’t be possible to mend.
All in all, I absolutely loved this book! Chasing Hope was a gripping, devastating and utterly honest story about love and grief, hope and loss. It was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, showing that it’s never too late for second chances if you’re willing to chase them.
Thank you to Gay Book Promotions for the ARC and blog tour invitation for this gem! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez