Spotlight on Sunny by Keris Stainton

By Jim Dean, June 17, 2015

Keris Stainton’s Spotlight on Sunny is the second in her Reel Friends series, following on from last year’s Starring Kitty, a favourite of mine. The first book was a sweet, tender romance about Kitty, who was in love with another girl, trying to navigate a relationship without at first feeling quite confident enough to come out to her friends. This sequel follows the same group of friends – Kitty, Sunny and Hannah – but shifts to Sunny’s point of view, and moves the action to London, where the trio take part in a film-making course. Sunny is happy to be in London but has to keep a big secret from her friends, as well as doing the course and making a new friend in the lovely Will.

This is similar to Kitty in many ways – it’s a really sweet, charming read. I particularly like the dynamic between the central trio, who are extremely close friends despite having very different values – Sunny is a Muslim and has massively different ideas about boys to Hannah, for example, but both characters’ views are expressed well and non-judgmentally, and they respect each other despite their differences. I also thought Sunny’s relationship with her parents was very well-portrayed. There’s a wonderfully diverse cast, with wheelchair user Will being great to read about – charismatic and funny – and even someone who originally seems to be a slightly stereotypical bad girl shines towards the end as we see more of her character revealed. I also really loved the way Keris Stainton captured the thrill of exploring London when you’re unfamiliar with it, the setting is brought to life brilliantly!

6 Comments

  1. Ruth F says:

    Great review – I loved Starring Kitty and will definitely be packing Spotlight on Sunny into my summer holiday bag. Great to see a book with positive, diverse characters.

  2. Jim Dean says:

    Thank Ruth! Agree that it’s brilliant to see diverse characters represented so well in this series.

  3. prettybooks says:

    I didn’t know it was set in London – I’m really looking forward to that. I know it’s not essential, but I need to pick up Starring Kitty before reading this as I hate reading out of order!

  4. Anne Booth says:

    I’ve read both ‘Starring Kitty’ and ‘Spotlight on Sunny’. I found both of the books to be very warm hearted, and in both books there is a great emphasis on friendship and not judging others. I loved that in ‘Spotlight on Sunny’, the fact that as a practicing Muslim Sunny has to pray, is mentioned not as a big thing, but as a part of life which affects, for example, when she needs to take a shower. I cannot over emphasise how rare this positive description of someone praying is to encounter in a book written today, and it is so brilliant to see. Sunny’s friends are really supportive of her faith even though they don’t share it – and that is something our world needs more of and I loved. Hooray! I did wonder, however, if the (lovely and much needed in our world) emphasis on tolerance was unrealistically positive at times, in that it downplayed some of the tensions that I think would have realistically occurred if, for example, Sunny’s religious parents were aware of the different values Sunny’s friends had, and indeed, any worries Sunny would have had about this. I come from a very religious family myself, and without wanting to write a spoiler, I do think Kitty’s story, if they knew it, would have been more worrying for Sunny’s parents than does seem to come across in the book. I also think that if Sunny’s parents didn’t know Kitty’s story, Sunny would have felt considerable tension if she had kept this from them. I think for the difficulties of the clash between religious and non-religious values the book ‘Head Over Heart’ by Colette Victor, which focuses more on the tensions and the parents’ negative initial reactions to a Muslim girl’s friendship with a non-Muslim boy, is a really interesting take and would be good to read and compare with this. What does work really well in ‘Spotlight on Sunny’, however, and which Keris Stainton has such flair for in this and her other books, is the way Keris Stainton brings such sheer warmth and fun to the description of friendships. You can really see why the characters are friends, and you really root for Sunny in realising her ambitions and her gifts. I like the way Keris writes the bit where Sunny realises that she has been judgemental about another girl – this makes Sunny a very rounded, normal, sympathetic character, not a pious saint. Her love for her family and her family’s love for her really shines through, and you do care a great deal about her story. The plot line was very enjoyable, and I liked the way ‘Starring Kitty’ and ‘Spotlight on Sunny’ followed after each other. Basically – when so much of our press is full of horrible stereotypes it is great to encounter a sensitive, rounded, kind heroine who is Muslim, in a really fun contemporary story full of warmth and kindness.

  5. Need this ASAP. Always love Keris’s books 🙂

  6. bethlikesbikes says:

    I loved both Spotlight on Sunny and Starring Kitty – such warm books with very rounded, human characters. Really looking forward to the third book in the series!

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