THE PRETTIEST STAR by Carter Sickels is a devastating and poignant story about the AIDS crisis. This powerful book shines a spotlight on the often overlooked demographic of young people that were forced to return to the families they ran away from and the communities that rejected them because they were dying and had nowhere else to turn. THE PRETTIEST STAR explores not only the tragic effects of AIDS but the stigma and violent homophobia surrounding the crisis.
In the 1980s at the age of eighteen Brian moved to New York City to start the life he always dreamed of. But after just a few years the utopia that NYC was for a young gay man painfully ended with the rise of the AIDS epidemic. Brian’s partner is dead, most his friends are dead, and he is sick. With nothing left, Brian must return to his childhood home in small-town Appalachia and confront the life he ran away from and the family that never accepted his homosexuality.
Told from the perspectives of Brian’s mother, his younger sister, and his self-recorded video diaries; THE PRETTIEST STAR provides a multifaceted depiction of the AIDS crisis through the lens of one family’s experience. In my opinion, the most compelling aspects of the story were the parts in Brian’s own words. Reminiscing about his life before AIDS and his reflections on his current situation were powerful and touching. My only complaint is that I wish there was more focus on Brian’s perspective. At times it felt like the story was more centered on the feelings of Brian’s family (the straight people) and how they experienced his condition and how they confronted their own homophobia.
I knew going into it that this book would be heartbreaking and difficult to read. What I didn’t anticipate was how absolutely pissed off it would make me! Reading the endless harassment, bigotry, and ignorance Brian faced made me so so angry and so so sad. To think that young people who were suffering so terrible were treated with such hatred is just too much to handle.
THE PRETTIEST STAR is not just heartbreak and sadness; there are glimmers of hope throughout! There are characters that show the genuine good and love that people are capable of and underlying the entire story is the strength and power of the queer community. THE PRETTIEST STAR is a unique story about the AIDS epidemic that is very impactful, pressing, and a definite must read!
** Hub City Press provided the book for honest review
- Title: The Prettiest Star
- Author: Carter Sickels
- Published: May 19, 2020 (Hub City Press)
- Genre: fiction, LGBT
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * *