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Askew Review 15

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(Random House UK) by Kevin Sampson. Fiction, 2006. 249 pages. Jonathan Cape, . I love funny, quirky stories. I really do. But a story that can make me feel all sorts of emotions- truly make me feel alive- is hands down the best read for me. Is it obvious where I’m going with this?
  Kevin Sampson is, admittedly, one of my favorite authors and it’s a cryin’ shame he’s not topping the best seller lists here. I’ve read all six of his previous novels, and there ain’t a bad one in the bunch (and a few, like Outlaws, Powder, and Awaydays, are fucking classics). And with that said, I think Stars Are Stars may actually be my favorite, and it ain’t just the booze I felt I needed to help me start writing reviews again talking.
  The story takes place in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and focuses on teenage Danny May, a streetwise young artist from Liverpool’s tough Toxteth neighborhood. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a character whose emotional core has been so vibrantly, brilliantly described as young Mr. May. Early on we learn how, when the planets align, Danny gets The Thrills, a state of anticipation and joie de vivre so pronounced that it made me vicariously giddy. He’s the kind of character that despite his obvious flaws, there’s no way to not love.
  Danny has always wanted to go to art school, and to save money to achieve this goal, he goes out nightly to various dives to sketch Liverpool’s most drunken and psychotic for a quid a pop. It’s a hard yet interesting life, but once he meets the exquisitely maddening Nicole, a couple years his senior and already a student at one of the local universities, his world will never be the same again. They embark on a complex love/hate relationship, the intricacies of which will have you hearkening back to your first real, fucked up, insane yet beautiful relationship many, many times. Danny’s highs and lows are incredibly intense and delicious and palpable, and the dead-on soundtrack (unabashedly Joy Division and Bowie-centric, with a lot of other very much of the times songs) makes it even better.
  Stars Are Stars builds up to a crashing, banging, awesome and redemptive climax that I’m not going to give away here, but one that I definitely recommend you discover for yourself. Best book of 2006 so far (edging out Irvine Welsh’s Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by just a little bit). –Ben Hunter



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