Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Release Date: December 10, 2013
Source: Netgalley
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.

Ten Likes/Dislikes:

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.


  1. Christina--it's been forever since I visited (*hangs head in shame*) and you have revamped your blog! I like it--nice job:)

    I really liked These Broken Stars--I think maybe a little more then you. I agree with liking Tarver from the get go--but Lilac did grow on me and of course her personal development as the story wore on was a factor. I also loved that it was a dual pov piece--and I liked those little interrogation chapter headings as well:) I'm not much for survivalist stories but this one appealed to me a lot--and unlike you I really got into the science fiction part of the books--terraforming! This concept just fascinated me--enough that after I finished reading I went on to do my own research on it:)

    I also thought that there were some great twists in the story--a few that REALLY took me by surprise. I'm looking forward to reading the next companion book--I have already begun speculating on who will be the stars:) Enjoyed your thoughtful analysis:)

    1. Heather, it's been a while since I've visited your blog, so if anything, I should be the one hanging my head in shame. And thank you!

      Probably. I liked it--I thought it was a well executed book even if I couldn't get into it emotionally as much as other people have, and I blame that mostly on my pickiness as a reader. The interrogation chapter headings were just fantastic - I probably should have mentioned them in the review. Really great at keeping me hooked until the story/characters pulled me in. Ha, I'm terrible when it comes to science in books. Terraforming is definitely a cool concept - I'd say that was probably my favorite of the different science bits mentioned. It's always a good sign that the book so affected you that you went on to doing your own research :).

      Yes, I agree that there were a lot of great twists. Some stuff I did see coming, but some, as it happened for you, took me by surprise. I hope you enjoy the next book :).

  2. Crap, now I can't remember the science presentation well enough, but I've read it, so if you give me a hint perhaps I'll be able to remember?

    1. Okay, hints. Terraforming, physics, hyperspace, dimensions, energy. Enough or too general? :)

    2. Hehe, I think some of these things I've become willing to turn a blind eye towards because they've become such sci-fi tropes, I think I know what you're talking about if there is a specific thing you're referring to though ;-)

    3. Hahaha, I do think some of my issues with science fiction might be with the tropes - I will have to look up a list of tropes to be sure though.

  3. First of all - YOUR BLOG. I haven't been great at keeping up with everyones posts of late, so I didn't realise you had redesigned! I thought I'd somehow ended up elsewhere. It looks AMAZING. Very clean and professional. :)

    I've read three different reviews of this book today (yours being the fourth!), and all of those also mentioned the same issue with the pacing during the middle. I'm glad I can at least anticipate it now. Overall, though, this sounds really promising! I think Tarver's character might just work for me. Truthfully, I was sold at the mention of him being the strong and silent type. My personal favourite. ;)

    I'm also looking forward to the writing. It's reassuring to see that most reviewers seem to agree the two points of view are distinct. That's good - I can be put off by alternating perspectives if they're too similar.

    This is coming up on my schedule soon and I'm excited now. Thanks for the helpful review as always! :)

    1. Haha, it's a recent change, Sam, so no worries. I was kind of sick of my last layout and its harder-to-read color scheme, and a free SEO report suggested that I check out HTML 5 layouts, anddd here I am. Thank you! I worried quite a bit about the "clean" part.

      It is a promising novel, and I do think that you'll like it. I can see you liking Tarver quite a bit - he is an ideal love interest :). I hope that the issue with pacing doesn't bother you. I've seen quite a few reviews also not mention that issue, so maybe it's one of those things that's selective to some and not to others. One of the commenters below, for instance, mentions not experiencing that issue :).

      Yes. Someone told me that each author took on a different point of view, so it definitely makes sense that their voices are distinct. I'm glad you're excited for it, and I hope you enjoy the book! I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on it.

  4. WOW, your lay-out looks great. I like the subtle background :D I think it is a flower or something like that? Pretty!

    I like when your opinion changes once you see the character develop :) It's a good thing it doesn't take too long, because sometimes I hate characters so much it doesn't matter anymore. Tarver sounds like someone that could be a knight in a fairy tale. Honorable, supportive, calm. And I love such slow-romance. I think I will really like him :) Two different worlds to explore, sounds great to me! I don't read many sci-fi, so I'm happy that it was well-written here.

    Yes, I think this is a book for me. I'll take your advice and try to find an excerpt to see how I like it :)

    1. Thanks, Mel!! It is a blurred flower. I'm a huge fan of photos like that.

      Me too! I actually think that I might prefer it when a character feels slightly foreign (though still likable) and then grows into his/her potential; it makes me feel like I know that character more. I do agree that if that process takes too long, it's hard to get into a book, but Tarver does a good job of reminding you of Lilac's potential (that is, if you get irritated with her; you may not), noticing how she's persevered in the face of something so alien to her. I also think that you will like Tarver a lot, and am looking forward to reading what you think of the science aspect, should you decide that the excerpt and book are for you :).

  5. Fantastic review, Christina! I really like the way you structured this review. It was easier for me to envision the ship and the planet, but that's probably because I've watched/read so much sci-fi and tend to daydream about living in a spaceship, lol. However, you have me very curious about the picky scientist comment you made. Care to elaborate?

    The lack of side cast didn't really bother me too much. I think the pace was broken up nicely for me, with the snippets of the interrogation happening before every chapter.

    1. Lol. I did think of the Firefly ship a bit, but I didn't think that was what I was supposed to be picturing. Ah, the science. It is mostly what I've said - I'm terribly, terribly picky about what kind of science fiction interests me. I'm pulled out of the story a lot -- I haven't tried enough adult science fiction to tell whether it's a quality of YA sci fi or science fiction in general that makes me twitchy. Sometimes it's the themes that bother me, sometimes it's the implausibility that bothers me, sometimes it's the feel of the story (mad scientist? magical? etc.) that bothers me. I do like certain types of science fiction - like science fantasy a la Star Wars or the Lunar Chronicles. If you're really interested, perhaps I can email you? It's a very long thing, and I don't want to take up too much space here.

      The lack of side cast didn't bother me so much as the pacing, but like you, I did really like the interrogation snippets. They definitely did break up the survival bits and pushed me to continue reading. :)

  6. I just skimmed your review and looked at your positive/negatives. I like the way you listed them, by the way! It was helpful! I'm glad you think it'll be good for science fiction and romance lovers! Love the layout, too!

    1. Thanks for the various compliments :). Today is, actually, the first time in a while that I've returned to these kind of reviews, and it's good to have a reminder for why I use this style.

  7. I was about to start this and then Fiery Heart arrived in the mail. I must say, I am apprehensive about this book, but most bloggers have loved it, so can't wait to try it out…
    Jen @ YA Romantics

    1. Hahah, The Fiery Heart also really distracted me as soon as it arrived. I hope These Broken Stars ended up working out for you!

  8. I agree that, for the most part, this is a really character-driven novel. Oddly enough though, I never found it boring and sometimes I do when it's not a super plotted book. I loved this one though, even if I didn't think it was perfect. And I agree with what you said about some YA science fiction novels. They do sometimes give off an anti-intellectual vibe.

    1. Maybe because it's a very emotionally driven narrative? I actually don't find character-driven novels to be boring even if they're not super plotted. I'm glad you liked TBS - and ha, can a book ever be perfect? Yeah... YA sci fi definitely has to watch for the anti intellectual vibe.

  9. Wow, I should really visit more often! Love the new look, C! :) I'm so glad you enjoyed this novel, despite a few minor reservations. I agree, toward the middle, it felt less sci-fi and more paranormal creepy, but still with a sci-fi vibe. I kind of like that, though. I really had no idea what to expect next, and that is always a plus in my book. I was also ecstatic that the dual POV worked out so well. You're absolutely correct in that most end up sounding the exact same so it's almost pointless to have two perspectives, but it worked really well for this story. I'm always leery of co-authored novels, but I love this collaboration SO MUCH. I can't wait for the next book in the series!

    1. Jen -- I've been commenting to all these old posts, and you HAVE visited often. You've been so supportive despite me not returning comments ASAP and thank you so so much. And thank you for your kind words on the layout! You thought the paranormal creepiness still had a sci-fi vibe? It was true that I didn't know what to expect of those sections either. " I was also ecstatic that the dual POV worked out so well. You're absolutely correct in that most end up sounding the exact same so it's almost pointless to have two perspectives, but it worked really well for this story. " -- very, very true! A case of co-authoring working out really well. I hope you enjoy the next book in the series :).

  10. I loved this book when I read it in december. I agree with you, the story is character-driven, which made me fall in love with the novel:-)


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