I’ll admit I was first drawn to this book by its cover. I mean, a girl with red hair floating in space in a gorgeous green dress, who wouldn’t be intrigued? I’m excited to announce that not only did this live up to my book cover first impression but also surpassed it by a mile! These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner is unique in several ways. Firstly, it’s co-authored! How cool is that? And what’s better – it works! I honestly couldn’t tell you where one author’s work ends and the other begins. I have no idea how they did it, but keep it up! Secondly, the narrator changes each chapter, so you have equal insight into Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen’s thoughts. Yay! Thirdly, the story primarily involves only these two characters almost the entire time. No, really, it’s not a bad thing.
If you couldn’t already tell by the cover, TBS is a YA sci-fi novel set some years in the future. Colonists have discovered other inhabitable planets and the galactical industry giant, LaRoux Industries has produced technology to help the colonization process (e.g. oxygenating the atmosphere, enhancing the rate of vegetation growth and establishing scientific research labs). Some reviewers have likened this story to the galactic version of Titanic, but I guess I never really saw this correlation while reading. Sure there are similarities, the ship crashes and there’s a love story, but the plot is significantly different (possible discovery of new life form and other paranormal anomalies).
“For a moment the image before us is frozen: our world, our lives, reduced to a handful broken stars half lost in uncharted space. Then it’s gone, the view swallowed by the hyperspace winds streaming past, blue-green auroras wiping the after-images away.
Until all that’s left is us”
The story begins with Tarver’s perspective (rightly so). He presents this new world to the reader with a level-head and surprising wisdom for someone so young. At only 18, Tarver is a war hero. However, the details regarding his bravery and courage are somewhat vague and never fully explained. Major Merendsen is an honored guest aboard the Icarus, doing his war hero victory tour. At first impression, one might write his character off as the typical masculine meat-head, but you’d be wrong. Tarver is a wonderfully complex character capable of passionate emotions. You’d think most war heroes would be cocky and welcome the spotlight, but Tarver is a reluctant poster boy. Tarver’s older brother was killed in action, which prompted his desire to join in order to honor his brother. However, being a war hero further separates Tarver from his grieving family. Coming from a poor family on a remote planet, Tarver is literally from the wrong side of the stars. Tarver reveals his mother is a well-recognized poet and his father is a humble school teacher. We learn he shares his mother’s appreciation of poetry and literature. This might seem quaint or trivial, but I really liked that he kept a journal. It shows his depth as a character and how intelligent he really is.
Lilac is the heiress to the LaRoux Industries empire. She is literally the wealthiest person in the galaxy. Upon first impression you want to roll your eyes, hard, at Lilac. She appears to be the vapid, spoiled daddy’s girl we all love to hate. However, this is where Kaufman and Spooner shine as authors. They are excellent at crafting characters and continue to develop them throughout the story. For the richest girl in the galaxy you’d think there’s not much Lilac can want. Well, that’s not the case. Even though Lilac is surrounded by a herd of friends, bodyguards and social climbers, she doesn’t really have a real relationship with anyone. Her father is pretty intense and sadistic. No man is good enough to be with his daughter and he makes would be suitors disappear for looking at Lilac wrong. I’ll admit, I didn’t really have much sympathy or respect for Lilac during the first third of the novel. It wasn’t until the crash did she reveal a hidden layer of herself. Lilac is somewhat of an amateur electrician/communications specialist. Lilac’s technological know how spares their escape pod from crashing with the rest of the ship, ultimately saving their lives. I love this about her! While she might not know anything about survival, she’s doesn’t turn into the typical worthless damsel in distress. True, there are a few damsel in distress moments, but Lilac can hold her own.
I really appreciated the fact that there was no insta love between Lilac and Tarver. Their relationship does go through the ringer: attraction, rejection, repulsion, trust, friendship and eventually love. Given they are the sole survivors on a foreign planet, I think they go through the appropriate struggles in their relationship before we see the fireworks. The progression felt natural and believable. And Kaufman and Spooner aren’t afraid to show some sex. If I was in a life threatening situation and I felt like I would die at weeks end, you bet I’d be seeking some pleasure. But just like everything with their relationship, the physical aspect isn’t rushed.
“And there it is, against all hope, like the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. The smallest hint of a smile.”
Even though Lilac and Tarver are the only characters for 80% of the novel, I wasn’t bothered by this at all. Some reviewers have criticized this decision, but there’s plenty of action and plot development to eradicate any doubts. Also, switching narrators every chapter breaks up any stagnant plot points and constantly increases the reader’s worldview. What I found really interesting about the story was after each chapter there was a continuous interrogation happening. I’ve never seen a similar literary device in young adult, and I felt like it really added to the sci-fi/paranormal storyline. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going to speak about the paranormal aspects of the novel. However, it’s definitely unique!
In conclusion, I was delightfully surprised by These Broken Stars and give major props to the authors for a successful co-authored novel. The writing is brilliant, the characters are well developed and the storyline is unique and pure pleasure to read. I can’t wait to continue the “Starbound” series!
Would I read it again: Yes!
Will I read the next book: Absolutely!