Saturday, 18 January 2014

These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner


For anyone who, as it happened to me, is having trouble getting into this book - stick with it! I promise it gets much, much better!

Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the richest man in the known universe, Tarver Merendsen is a lower class young man who, due to his feats in the battlefield, was quickly promoted to major, thus outranking most of the officers on the luxury spaceliner in which Lilac and Tarver are travelling.
Something goes wrong with the spaceliner and, after getting into an escape pod, Lilac and Tarver crash into a strange planet. It's not just about surviving in the wilderness and trying to flag a spaceship to rescue them - it's about cracking the mystery of the whispers that haunt them in this new planet.

I didn't really like the way this book started, this book could have been worthy of 5 stars, but the start... I read many complaints about finding Lilac unlikable at first, I didn't have that problem, my problem is that the beginning of the book makes the characters sound like a standard YA Mary-Sue and Gary-Stue.
Get this: Lilac is a gorgeous redhead, rich, famous, and among a sea of flawlessly gorgeous women she stands out. Not only that, she's a genius in electronics, explosives, and space travel.
Tarver is only 18 years old but he is so amazing that, even in an extremely classist society, he managed to be promoted above all the rich people in the military and now outranks everyone on the spaceship. Not only that he is also super handsome and fit, and he is now famous for his battle heroics.

I mean... really?

But I urge readers to ignore this inauspicious start. The story is well worth it. 
First of all, hurray for a healthy relationship in YA!! The guy is so normal! Yeah, he still notices and thinks about sex, but he respects her and, thinking his advances will not be welcome, does not attempt anything. Which, given the circumstances would have been a bit iffy - I mean, they're stranded in a strange planet, she depends on him for survival... 
The romance part of the book was masterfully dealt with. Lilac had a say in all of it, the matter of consent was very present in all their romantic interactions. 
Plus it wasn't a case of insta-love; they started off on the wrong foot and learned to trust and eventually like each other. It was a gradual and realistic build-up, especially considering their circumstances.

The story is told in alternating POVs, we get Lilac, we get Tarver, and we get glimpses of Tarver's interrogation after their rescue, which help frame the chapters that follow them and keep the reader guessing as to what actually happened until the very end. 
I really liked both characters despite their unrealistic achievements. They were both so likable that I, a notoriously picky reader, managed to just go, "Yeah... I'll just ignore it because aww look at them!"

I loved Lilac. She crashes into a planet while wearing a ball gown and high heels and not once complains about trekking through the wilderness. She tries to keep up with Tarver no matter what, even if it's clear he'd be willing to give her a break, because as she puts it:

"(...) years later, when he looks back at this escapade, I’d rather he think bitch than weakling."
Yes! Girl, tell it!!!
She is not, despite her introduction, a Mary-Sue in the way she behaves throughout the book. She recognises her failings, she knows her limits, she also knows when not to back down. And she was never tstl. Do you know how refreshing it is to read a YA female protagonist like that?

Tarver is also great. Instead of being the usual manipulative, controlling asshole that populates most YA, New Adult and Contemporary Romance books, he's *gasp* a normal guy, who thinks of Lilac as an equal human being - just one he happens to be attracted to, but given everything, that is hardly of importance, not when they're struggling to survive. He understands that Lilac's need for independence is not just a ~feminine whim~ he'll condescendingly indulge or not, as many male characters in his place would have seen it - but a core element of her self-worth and ability to keep going in a dreadful situation. He was very capable and, inarguably, the one most at ease in their environment, but he never took that as meaning he was the one in charge. 
The great thing about Lilac and Tarver's relationship was the mutual respect and the slow build of trust between them. They asked multiple times throughout the book for the other one's trust and that was the basis for their whole relationship. That is so awesome!

This is not just a survival tale, there is a mystery to be cracked in this planet: whispers and visions haunt them through their trek. Things happen that make them doubt their sanity. There is something... someone there with them. But who or what could it be?

Not going to spoil it, of course, but I have to say that readers should prepare themselves for some tear-jerking moments that come out of nowhere and punch them in the gut, then leave them sobbing and gasping while contemplating the nature of self and what makes a person who they are, and how consciousness and self-awareness may not be enough to make you real. Basically a Descartes beat-down, but it's the reader that ends up curled into a ball, crying.

I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on the next book - even though I already know it won't be about Lilac and Tarvers, though hopefully they'll make an appearance, or at the very least will be mentioned in it. But I trust Amie Kaufman and Maegan Spooner to write a wonderful book - all my respect to them: two authors writing a book and it reads absolutely seamlessly, and they wrote an incredibly engaging plot with a healthy relationship within it. Really, really well done!

Anyway, I don't know how convincing I managed to be, since my aim is to get everyone to read this book, so just in case I wasn't very successful: PLEASE GO READ THIS BOOK! I promise you'll love it!

Amie Kaufman's official site

Meagan Spooner's official site

Buy These Broken Stars
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)

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