Fuck… I am at a loss for words with this one. The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve read, and will read, this entire year. This story overflowed with so much raw emotion and is easily one of the most beautifully written and heartbreaking stories I’ve ever read in my life.
At the age of 18, Brian Jackson moves to New York City in search of acceptance and freedom. Just six years into his new life, AIDS has claimed the life of his boyfriend, several of his friends, and now his own future. Now only 24, alone, and desperate to get out of New York and away from the constant reminders of death, Brian decides to go back home and be with his family. At home, Brian’s family struggles to adapt to his return. Terrified by Brian’s disease and sexual identity, and desperate to keep these details secret from everyone in town, his family has no idea how to talk to him, support him or care for him. Seemingly, the only person happy to see him return home is his grandmother. The Prettiest Star is told in multiple POV’s: Brian’s mother Sharon; his younger sister, Jess, as she grapples with her brother’s mysterious return; and the video diaries that Brian records to document his final summer and the horrors that him and his friends have faced from AIDS.
This book had me hooked from the very beginning and gave me all 👏🏻 the 👏🏻 feels 👏🏻. I feel like I have so much to say, yet don’t really know where to start. Carter Sickels is a literary genius and does such an amazing job at developing the characters in this story. I was blown away by how deep and intense the anger, frustration and hurt that I felt towards Brian’s mother, father, sister and other townspeople was as a result of their actions throughout the story. And Brian’s character…. everything about him felt so authentic and real. Every ounce of me wished that I could somehow step in to the story and protect him. Throughout the entire book, I was so thankful that he had his grandmother and best friend Annie as loving allies.
The way that Carter Sickels describes the struggles and prejudice experienced by the LGBTQ+ community is so powerful, heartbreaking and mind blowing. My heart hurts so bad from reading what is only a small sliver of cruelty that members of this community have suffered, and continue to suffer from. When it comes to equality and justice, we still have so far to go…
The Prettiest Star is a MUST READ. This story is so important, and I want everyone to be able to experience what I felt while reading this. Thank you so much, Carter Sickels, for writing this incredible story. This one will stick with me for a very long time 💛
BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels is best paired with Sorbetto Series #28 by Ever Grain Brewing Co. This incredibly flavorful fruited sour ale is brewed with blackberries, strawberries, vanilla and marshmallow 🍻