The Prettiest Star

The Prettiest Star

A stunning novel about the bounds of family and redemption, shines light on an overlooked part of the AIDS epidemic when men returned to their rural communities to die, by Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award-winning author Carter Sickels.

• EW's 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2020
• O Magazine's "31 LGBTQ Books That'll Change the Literary Landscape in 2020"
• BookRiot's "Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books of 2020"
• Atlanta Journal Constitution's "10 Southern Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020"

“From its opening sentences Carter Sickels’ The Prettiest Star makes it clear that too many queer narratives have been kept out of sight. Here a man returns to the town of his southern Ohio childhood at a point when his own day-to-day survival is at stake. Love doesn’t come in to save him, or the family and friends upended by his presence. ‘Nothing transforms, there is no magic,’ says one character, and while there’s darkness in those words, their down to earth candor does a lot to convey why this novel feels so touching, affecting, rebellious, and real.”
—Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World

Small-town Appalachia doesn't have a lot going for it, but it’s where Brian is from, where his family is, and where he’s chosen to return to die.

At eighteen, Brian, like so many other promising young gay men, arrived in New York City without much more than a love for the freedom and release from his past that it promised. But within six short years, AIDS would claim his lover, his friends, and his future. With nothing left in New York but memories of death, Brian decides to write his mother a letter asking to come back to the place, and family, he was once so desperate to escape.

Set in 1986, a year after Rock Hudson’s death shifted the public consciousness of the epidemic and brought the news of AIDS into living rooms and kitchens across America, The Prettiest Star is part Dog Years by Mark Doty and part Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. But it is also an urgent story now: it a novel about the politics and fragility of the body; it is a novel about sex and shame. And it is a novel that speaks to the question of what home and family means when we try to forge a life for ourselves in a world that can be harsh and unpredictable. It is written at the far reaches of love and understanding, and zeroes in on the moments where those two forces reach for each other, and sometimes touch.

Title:The Prettiest Star
Edition Language:English
Format Type:

    The Prettiest Star Reviews

  • Larry H

    Wow, Carter Sickels. Your gorgeous new book utterly undid me."We live our lives not realizing which moments are special or which are ordinary—what will we remember, what memories will we try to grab...

  • Nataliya

    “AIDS is a story of America, he said. It’s a story that must be told.” It’s a haunting, devastating and heartbreaking story. It’s been a few days since I finished it, and I’m still shak...

  • Michael

    Another elegiac novel about the height of the AIDS epidemic in America, this one set in a small Ohioan town, where Brian, an artsy white gay, returns from New York to his estranged family in the wake ...

  • Dominic

    Second reading, May 2020. I want to teach this book. *The Prettiest Star* is a tender, emotional story about a fraught homecoming but it is boiling with rage beneath the surface. It tells the story of...

  • Paris (parisperusing)

    Honestly one of the best LGBTQ+ books I’ve read this year, by a truly gifted writer. This story was a heartbreaker but it’s so much larger than that. It feels eerily reminiscent to the hate and bi...

  • Travis Foster

    The Library Journal's review complained that this book's depiction of small-town bigotry is too extreme to be believable -- to which I can only say, hell no. It's exactly right, painfully realistic....

  • Sarah Schulman

    From the beginning of AIDS literature in the 1980'. through to its current literary subject revival, the reality of familial homophobia has been hidden or downplayed. Parents have been depicted - to g...

  • Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    I knew going into this one that it'd be a heartbreaking read - the blurb tells us that Brian is moving back from NYC to his hometown in Appalachian Ohio to die. Like many of friends and his partner wh...

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I started this Sunday night intending to make it the last read of the month, but couldn't put it down. Carter Sickels captures what the AIDS epidemic looked like in rural American through the characte...

  • Erik

    Carter Sickels' "The Prettiest Star" is an AIDS story that we have needed, that has been missing, and that will remind you about where we have come from.Sickels tells the story of Brian, a 24 year old...