WORLD BOOK Day, which takes place on today, sees the release of a highly anticipated young adult novel which tackles race, bullying and suicide within the northern community of Wythenshawe in Manchester.
And The Stars Were Burning Brightly has been hailed as the “YA book of 2020” by Melvin Burgess and been described as “an outstanding and compassionate debut” by Patrice Lawrence.
Award-winning children’s author Alex Wheatle has heaped praise on its author – Danielle Jawando – as “one of the brightest up-and-coming stars of the YA world”.
At the centre of the novel is Nathan – a 15-year-old who discovers that his older brother, Al, has taken his own life and is determined to find out why.
Danielle Jawando, 31, was born in Manchester to parents of African and Irish descent – her father is Irish Nigerian (his grandfather was Brazilian), while her mother is Irish Ghanaian.
She first discovered her love for writing as a student at the University of East London, where she studied creative and professional writing, graduating with a BA (Hons) in 2009.
She enjoyed her time at UEL so much that she followed this up by pursuing an MA in creative writing a year later.
“When I applied to uni, I didn’t know what I wanted to do at all but I just knew that I loved writing and I wanted to go to a university outside of Manchester,” she told Lifestyle. “At that time, UEL was one of the only universities which offered a creative writing degree so I signed up immediately and found it to be one of my most life-changing experiences.”
After her studies, Jawando went on a writing spree which paved the way for her first novel, including being selected as a finalist for the We Need Diverse Books competition in 2016 and being a storyline writer for Coronation Street in 2015.
Last year also saw the release of her Little Guides to Great Lives illustrated children’s book on the life of the award-winning writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, whom she lists as an inspiration alongside writer and former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman: “Growing up, Malorie Blackman was a black woman writing stories which I found interesting. She’s paved the way and her presence let me know that I could make it as a writer too.”
Jawando, who is also an associate lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, encourages readers who have experienced suicide or bullying to speak out and lists at the back of the book a variety of charitable organisations which may help them.
“There is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, particularly amongst young men,” she said.
“With Stars I wanted to a shine a light on this (and the many problems that young people face growing up around social media). With this story, I want readers to know that it’s okay not to be okay, and that there is no shame in seeking help.”
And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando and published by Simon & Schuster is released on March 5 in all good bookshops, priced at £7.99.