Title: Aster’s Good, Right Things
Author: Kate Gordon
Publisher: Yellow Brick Books
Published: 1st November 2020
Synopsis: Aster attends a school for gifted kids, but she doesn’t think she’s special at all. If she was, her mother wouldn’t have left. And if she isn’t careful, everyone else will leave her too.
Each day Aster must do a good, right thing – a challenge she sets herself to make someone else’s life better Nobody can know about her ‘things’, because then they won’t count. And if she doesn’t do them, she knows everything will go wrong.
Then she meets Xavier. He wears princess pyjamas and has his own kind of special missions to make life better. When they do these missions together, Aster feels free … but if she stops doing her good, right things will everything fall apart?
Kate Gordon’s latest book is a beautiful #OwnVoices story about anxiety and depression, told through the eyes of Aster, who has anxiety, and Xavier, who struggles with anxiety and depression, and is home schooled. Aster has been doing her good, right things – if she does, maybe her mum will come back.
Each chapter is a day over several weeks, and what Aster does each day, and her good, right thing. She likes to communicate using the language of flowers, and when she finds a black rabbit at the edge of school, she names her Hollyhock, before finding out she belongs to the boy next door, Xavier, and a beautiful friendship flourishes.
Xavier teaches Aster about his depression and friendship, and what it means to have a friend. She comes out of her shell and connects with Xavier.
Kate Gordon tackles issues that are tough, but relevant to kids: parental separation, mental health, friendship, fostering, and parental neglect, and uses diverse characters to tell an evocative and touching story that moved me so much, I could not put it down until I had finished the story – I had to find out what happened to Aster, Indigo and Xavier. I was moved so much and saw so many elements of anxiety and isolation in this novel, that showed the power of connections with friends can help us feel less anxious, and less isolated.
I was completely taken in by this novel, and I think we need more of them. More middle grade novels that don’t shy away from the hard topics in life but present them in a way that children can understand and access, and ways they can relate to. The power in this story was exceptional and takes readers on an emotionally gentle journey. It’s relatable and moving and allows the characters to be honest with each other and themselves – and shows readers that they can be who they are and learn to cope with life and everything they deal with day to day. It shows that anxiety affects people in different ways and deals with parental neglect and how this affects children. Aster has her father, who understands her, but Indigo is alone.
I fell in love with Aster, and wanted to hug her, Xavier and Indigo. I wanted to reach into the book and help them, to be there for them. Aster’s Good, Right Things is a beautiful book, and is one that will be treasured and will become a useful resource to talk with children about mental health, family break up and foster caring in a safe and secure way. We’re all feeling a little anxious and uncertain at the moment, as well as isolated to varying degrees, and I think this book is coming at just the right time this November, when we all need a comforting hug from a story that speaks to all our feelings from 2020.
A lovely book for readers aged nine and older, for adults, for schools, and to share with all kids to help them through tough times.