These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner has been out for about half a year now and I think I’m probably coming a little late to the YA meets space opera party. Still, better late than never right?
I first discovered the book through this BuzzFeed page about manicures based on book covers (as you do). And when I saw the simply mind-blowing cover of These Broken Stars (publishers: take note, this is a fine example of an awesome book cover. Also, readers: for a behind-the-scenes look at the cover, check this link out), I thought, ‘I just have to find out what this book is all about,’ and went straight to Google (again, as you do). So what is the book about, you ask? Basically, it goes something like this – rich girl meets war hero on a doomed luxury space liner that crashes on an unknown planet, leaving them the only survivors. When I read the blurb, I immediately went yessss. What an amazing and totally captivating premise. I just knew I had to buy this book and buy it on my beloved Kindle I did.
A lot of people have described the book as Titanic in Outer Space and I have to admit, there were a couple of points at the beginning that had me going, ‘Oh hey! Rose! Jack! Rose!’, particularly the part near the beginning which involves a fall from one level of the ship to the other during the hysteria caused by the news that the ship was about to crash (I kept flashing back to the scene in Titanic where Rose jumps to another level of the ship to be with Jack. Side note: how fantastic was Kate Winslet’s hair and evening coat there?).
On first sight, Lilac and Tarver’s characters seem pretty cliche – the spoiled little rich girl who has a complicated relationship with her powerful father and the war hero from a humble background who has a loving family waiting for him back home. However, the authors did a great job of developing the characters, adding a variety of layers to their personalities and making them extremely likable. There were moments of tension between the pair, of course, but I’m glad to say the authors never overdid the power struggles that can evolve from a relationship between two such disparate personalities in a Survivor-like setting (Swept Away, Survival Island, I’m looking at you here). Instead, reading this book has me thinking more The Blue Lagoon, where you find yourself almost hoping they might choose to stay forever on their crash site planet. (But whether they do or not, you’ll have to find out by reading the book! I’m not telling!)
These Broken Stars is primarily a YA romance, while also incorporating elements of sci-fi, survival adventure and space opera so that’s something for readers to keep in mind. You get the feeling the writers could have explored the themes of survival adventure and space opera a lot more because there’s so much potential world building they could mine for this book, particularly as it’s the space/alien planet setting that really gives the story its oomph and sets it apart from the other YA romance novels. (This might still happen as there will be sequels to These Broken Stars, though it’s been confirmed the books will not be starring Lilac and Tarver). Still, there are plenty of tidbits to enjoy about the way Lilac and Tarver’s world works, a world where terraformed planets are the norm and there’s clearly some issues between the colonies and the richer, space engineering classes.
As for the romance… well, I have absolutely no complaints here. That’s where the authors’ work truly shine with heartwarming scenes that are guaranteed to leave readers with a warm glow inside. The development of Lilac and Tarver’s relationship ticks along nicely in a believable arc and never takes away too much from the protagonists’ main problem – how to get off this planet and back to civilisation. (Though I must admit I am pretty jealous that Lilac can have a black eye, several cuts and bruises, trekked across an uninhabited planet for days without access to a hot shower and still look gorgeous – that’s simply not fair, in my opinion :p ). (Side note: I also thought it was a nice touch toward the end where Lilac briefly mentions cleaning her teeth because I must admit it did cross my mind that the kissing couldn’t be all that mind-blowing if both heroes have gone days without brushing their teeth!)
I do have one minor gripe about the book – and that is I felt it finished on a rather hasty and abrupt note, and left me with some questions unanswered and the feeling that some things haven’t been resolved as satisfactorily as I’d like it to be. Still,that’s just my personal opinion and on the whole, I am a massive, massive fan of the book. There’s some beautiful writing in there that really fuels the imagination (I still can’t get one scene in particular out of my mind, where Lilac and Tarver witness the spectacular crash of the doomed space liner). Then there’s the terrific pacing which keeps ticking along just fine without having to resort to death-defying scenes all the time to keep the reader turning pages. Though These Broken Stars is very much character driven, I thought the authors did a terrific job of pairing action and character without delivering too much of one or the other.
These Broken Stars had me in bed for a good portion of the day, flipping pages, then left me wandering aimlessly around my house after I’d finished, wondering what book I could now read to keep stoking that warm, glowing feeling inside of me. The only solution? To purchase more YA meets space opera-esque books – or to be more specific, Beth Revis’ Across the Universe trilogy. That review coming up shortly!