<Book review>

Starseeker by Tim Bowler (2002)

It must be wonderful to be a genius, don't you think?

Or maybe not. Maybe it's a rather isolating experience, to be so different from everyone else. I think that is what Luke finds, in this story. Luke is a very sensitive, very emotional boy, with highly developed musical ability. Perhaps he really is a genius. He can certainly play the piano like an angel, as his father could before him. Unfortunately, his father died two years ago and Luke cannot bear the loss.

There is so much going on inside Luke's head, that it is hard to think about what is happening outside it, and what could have been small problems in his life begin to get way out of hand. For a start, there is the noise. Now Luke, like his father, is a very special kind of musician. He is extraordinarily aware of sound, some of it drawn from his surroundings, and some of it created inside his head. Melodies haunt him. And along with the disturbing level of background noise, he also registers bursts of colour and images. In fact Luke has synaesthesia, a condition in which the senses cross over. It must be very bewildering. A pity, then, for Luke that his father is not there to help him to come to terms with his experiences:

'It was as though whichever way he looked there were problems. To add to his confusion, he could hear the roaring sound again. It had started the moment they left the house, a low hum at first, then the familiar rumbling sound, growing gradually louder until now it rolled over him like a great billow of sound. He saw Mum glance at him quizzically.
'What's wrong?' he said.
'Funny.'
'What's funny?'
'Your father used to do that.'
'Do what?'
'Narrow his eyes slightly when he was hearing something unusual.'
Luke said nothing, his mind still absorbed by this strange roaring sound. As usual it seemed to be everywhere, as much inside him as outside. Mum hooked her hand round his arm. 'You're so like him,' she said. 'You even hear the same sounds.'
'How do you know?'
'I just do. I can't hear them because I'm not sensitive that way but I know you hear them because you're like Dad. Anyway, he said you did.'
'I never told him.'
'You didn't need to. He could tell.'

What other problems does Luke have? Well, his mother has fallen in love with someone else from the village and would like to marry him. Actually, he's a very nice man, someone who Luke might normally like very much, but just at the moment Luke doesn't feel able to share his mother with anyone else. He needs her all to himself.

Then of course, there are the boys that Luke fell in with after his father died. They are the wrong kind of boys, and Luke has made a big mistake. To prove himself worthy of belonging to their gang, they want him to break into the big house that stands on the edge of their village, and steal something of value. Luke is already cornered. He doesn't want to break in anywhere, but he is too frightened of Skin and Daz not to obey. It's just that what he actually finds inside the house is enough to throw him off balance completely ...

Luke's got a lot to sort out.

I think this is one of those books that you never forget, once you've read it. It is a tight, heart-stopping dilemma of a story, with a gifted, vulnerable and confused young hero. I was completely captured by it.

Earnestly recommended!

What can I read next?

If you enjoy this book, there are plenty of others by Tim Bowler, equally brilliant. Have a look at:

  • River Boy
  • Shadows
  • Storm Catchers

If you enjoy the psychological introspection of Starseeker, I think you might like to look at this superb story by David Klass:

Tim Bowler writes in a very quiet, measured tone. If his style of writing attracts you, I think you would also enjoy anything by David Almond:

If you are interested to follow up the theme of bullying, you could look at this one by Nicky Singer:

Another riveting story about a moral dilemma is this one by Suzanne Fisher-Staples:

If you would like to read more about synaesthesia, have a look at this one by Nicola Morgan:

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