So, this whole lockdown thing has got me going a little squirrelly lately, and as a result I’ve been craving a little escapism by way of some delicious YA fantasy. Enter These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Jam packed with a surprisingly capable heiress, a dashing war hero, some serious corporate shenanigans, an intergalactic disaster, and a crash landing on an abandoned planet and you have the recipe for a dang good time. Reader, let me tell you, it was just what I needed.
Title: These Broken Stars
Series Title: Starbound
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: December 10, 2013
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Romance
Themes: Survival, Romance, Family, Corporatism, Colonial Enterprises
My Rating: 4/ 5
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.
Okay, let me start off by saying that this wasn’t the deepest book that I have ever read, with more of a focus on romance and character development than the action and critical analysis of social issues that I’ve come to expect since reading The Illuminae Files. But, these are very different books with, I imagine, very different audiences. That’s not to say that there isn’t any social analysis, just that it’s secondary to some of the other elements.
I actually really enjoyed the discussion surrounding class-stratified society and corporate greed, and felt that it did a really good job of establishing the tensions between Lilac and Tarver. It served as an excellent vehicle through which to create complicated and compelling characters that both embodied and defied their stereotypes, as well as adding excitement and interest to the storyline. The poor soldier boy and the little rich girl is not a new story, but it’s one that never seems to get old regardless of genre.
Despite some initial misgivings, I ended up warming to Lilac’s character – especially her internal conflict. She is a girl who wants desperately to be free of her father and the expectations of her set by society, yet she also expects to be taken care of and catered to by everyone se encounters. But what I loved more than anything, was how this pampered princess had acquired some menial skills so far beyond the repertoire of the average society girl. Sure, Lilac can navigate a ship in stiletto heels and emotionally destroy any possible suitor with a few well formed words, but she can also wire just about anything with more skill than a maintenance crew. If this book suggests to anyone that you can be a girly-girl AND rock some serious practical skills, I’m all for it because these concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. Sure, there were a few times I wanted to shout ‘girl, NO!’ at Lilac for being spoiled and ridiculous (seriously, who tries to cross a mountain range in the aforementioned stilettos?), but her grit and determination eventually won me over.
The Major, on the other hand, took absolutely no warming up to. I was on his side from those first few pages where he was uncomfortable at yet another first-class party. He hates the pretension and posing for pictures, hated feeling like a thing to be put on show like a novelty – I knew then that Tarver would be the character to carry me through the book. I adored his tough-love approach to coaxing Lilac through her first experience in the wild, how the Major treated her like a green soldier rather than a corporate princess, and especially how he planed from Lilac’s needs but still had the compassion to wait for her to voice those needs before preferring any help. Oh, and did I mention that Tarver’s a poet? Soft boy, strong boy – consider me sold!
Both of the characters have beautifully complicated pasts and emotional wounds that make them extremely compelling. Both of their emotional emotional and physical journeys are well placed and carefully crafted. They’re just two kids ripped from their journey through space, who crash landed on an abandoned planet inhabited by spectres, trying to get back to any form of civilization. What could wrong? I enjoyed following along as they grew both more vulnerable and more capable as the days passed by. Their challenges are not small, and each victory is hard wan. What starts out as a superficial YA space-romance draws you in and tricks you into getting lost in a carefully wrought world that promises so much more to come.
Would I recommend this book? Yup! It was an absolute joy to read and I can’t wait to dive into This Shattered World the next time these COVID restrictions start to get me down.