Release Date: December 10, 2013
Published by: Disney Hyperion
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.
Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.
1. (+) Lilac, a protagonist - At first Lilac rubbed me the wrong way, but this feels very intentional (because of later character growth). She's the society girl in a gilded cage; everything around her is just fine - fine clothes, fine accommodations, fine female bodyguards who give her some form of conversation if not what she really wants. You see the potential to be something else/more in her thoughts and in little things like what she does for both Tarver and her. Then the ship crashes, and the cage has opened, and she's at a loss for what to do. She tries to hold onto something familiar -- her pride -- and thus acts snobbishly, and the rich girl attitude is what may rub the wrong way, but it doesn't take long for that potential to come through again. Her underlying strength shows when she presses onward despite pain, when she chooses to learn survival skills and let go of her pride. She's smart and stubborn, and her character growth reminds me a lot of the one that Aria, from Under the Never Sky, went through as well.
2. (+) Tarver, a protagonist - Tarver, on the other hand, almost immediately charmed me. He's a hick, a military hero thrown into the spotlight, and he resents the lack of sincerity that he perceives in those around him. He doesn't do anything shitty when insulted; his sense of chivalry won't allow for that. When everything falls apart, he remains supportive and calm. He's that strong and silent type, with a sensitive side, and he's definitely a swoon-worthy love interest. Something else I would say is that his moments of vulnerability don't highlight his character flaws in the way that Lilac's do (hence why he came off as more likable at the outset--for me at least). Because of that, I thought that Lilac was more real of a character, though I still liked his character and PoV. It's not something major nor is this a perception that I've read in other reviews, so it is probably just me.
3. (+) World-building - The cool thing is that you get to explore two different worlds - the ship and the planet. On the ship class differences are highlighted easily in how the two main characters think - Tarver focuses on how nothing feels real to him, with hovering trays like invisible waiters; Lilac focuses on the strangling feeling of all the society people in their nice suits and not actually feeling like she can do much. Some of the mechanics of the ship also get explored. Then you have the planet, its dangers and changing weather and various plants, and the secrets that it holds. I'm not a hugely visual reader, so it's not terribly surprising to me that I had a hard time picturing the layout of the ship and the planet, and how quickly the planet seemed to change terrain, but the world-building was a great opportunity for the authors to show how much they'd researched about survival techniques and climates.
4. (+) Romance - It's not really a hate-turned-love story so much as a rejection-turned-love sort of thing that happens in a slow burn way. They are clearly attracted to each other and share a moment together, but necessity makes it so that Lilac must reject Tarver. Then they're left with a misunderstanding (not hate), and are stranded on a strange planet and must work together. Combine that with the internal lust/attraction of before and their moment together, and of course they'll eventually realize that they make a good team. I was not a fan of the backstory that precipitated Lilac's rejection, but I'm not usually a fan of the angst that underlies forbidden romance, so how you react will probably depend on how important that backstory is for you. The development of their feelings for one another is done well though.
5. (+/-) Science - Here's the thing: I think I've come to realize that I can't read most YA science fiction. I've only ever read two series where I've liked how the science is presented, so I'll pin that part on me, the picky scientist. The one thing I will say is that it felt like the authors had done their research, and they do raise a lot of questions with the science. I also didn't get an anti-intellectual impression from the book either, which is really good since YA science fiction sometimes comes across that way (to me).
6. (+) Plot - Probably one of the best things about this is that the "titanic in space" / Icarus crash happens quickly. We're told about it in the summary, and we get just the right glimpse of the ship and life before the worst -- little wait necessary. Then other elements come into play. Lost was one of my favorite television shows, so I was reminded of it a lot when it came to Lilac and Tarver's journey across the strange planet. The mood is not really like that cultivated in Lost; rather it's the mix of the survivalist elements, and how the science feeds into the mystery and mood for the planet, plus some of the plot points and romance, that reminded me of Lost. It made for an interesting blend of learning about each other's pasts, learning about the terrain and secrets of this new environment, wondering what to do to best promote being rescued, and deciding to trust each other in the face of uncertainty. The mood is also quite different from most other YA science fiction novels, and at first gave me a sort of paranormal/creepy feel.
7. (+/-) Side Cast - I'm not usually someone who needs a side cast to love a book, and the very premise of this novel disallows for a huge side cast, but since I had an issue with the pacing, I wished that there were other characters to break up those scenes. It wouldn't have been the same novel if there was a larger side cast though.
8. (+) Writing - This is really well-written. Before reading this novel, I'd had a discussion with a friend about alternating first person present PoVs in YA, and how, in some books, it's hard to differentiate between the various points of views, but there's no concern of that happening here. Tarver and Lilac have distinct voices, and the writing flows well.
9. (+/-) Pacing - For the most part I thought that the pacing was done really well. The thing I took issue with was that I got bored in the middle and wished that some of the survivalist parts/narrative in general had been cut so that the book was shorter, but other than that? Nothing. It flowed and kept a steady sense of tension throughout each scene. Some reviews mentioned the ending, and I'd probably agree that it came suddenly for me too, but I can't say that I was honestly bothered by that.
10. (+/-) The Cover - I wasn't a huge fan of the cover when it was first released, but having read the book, I think that it's a good representation of the contents, particularly the fact that Tarver and Lilac are featured so prominently. Of all the elements, the romance seemed to take center stage.
One suggestion I'd give, if you're not sure yet about the book, is to read an excerpt. It'll give you a good sense of the writing and Tarver and Lilac, and since this book is so character-driven, that's probably the most important impression to have. I couldn't find an excerpt just yet, but I bet when release day comes, there will be one if you're interested.
With well-developed main characters and a mish-mash of survivalist, romance, and science fiction elements, These Broken Stars is sure to please both romance and YA science fiction fans.
The blog tour for this book is still going on if you're interested in learning more. Check out the Midnight Garden for more details.