Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Publisher: Disney Hyperion on December 10, 2013
Audiobook: Cynthia Halloway, Jonathan McClain, and Sarge Anton by Listening Library
It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. View Spoiler »
THESE BROKEN STARS by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner is everything I normally love about YA romance: dual POVs with distinct narrative voices, nuanced characters, and my beloved friends-to-lovers trope. If I were to review the first 60% of the book, I would give it 4 stars and call it a day…but sadly the last half of the book was a hot mess. To paraphrase the inimitable John Green, These Broken Stars went downhill the way a spaceship falls out of hyperspace: slowly, and then all at once.
Lilac LaRoux is one of the most famous women in the known universe. She is the daughter of the infamous Mr. LaRoux, founder of LaRoux Industries and the man credited with interplanetary colonization. To top it all off, he’s the mind behind the most advanced luxury spacecraft ever built. Lilac is aboard The Icarus when she chances upon Tarver Merendsen, a young war hero who brings new meaning to the word ‘swoon.’ I mean come on, this guy is a buff soldier with a snarky sense of humour who writes poetry? Are you effing kidding me?! Did no one else find that a little too perfect? So of course, she makes eyes at him, he makes eyes at her, and it’s on.
Or it would be, if she didn’t shoot him down horribly just hours before The Icarus fell out of hyperspace and 50,000 people were forced to either evacuate or die. And then Lilac and Tarver, against all odds, end up in the same escape craft. And then they crash land on a planet that appears to be completely uninhabited. Alone. #awkward
But it didn’t bother me how convenient this all was – it’s a romance, they have to get together somehow! It was actually pretty damn good. Lilac shocks Tarver by revealing that she’s a pretty savvy mechanic, and Tarver annoys Lilac by being bossy (sexy!) and generally saving her butt. Lilac and Tarver realize that if there’s any hope of rescue, they need to trek across this new planet and locate the wreckage of the Icarus. At this point in the book I’m getting excited, the tension is ratcheting up and the chemistry between these two is unbelievable.
And the world building is pretty good, too! There are scary beasts and beautiful descriptions of the planet’s terrain, and the survival skills that Tarver passes on to Lilac are actually real wilderness skills. There’s a great scene where Tarver tests a plant to see if it’s poisonous by rubbing it on the skin of his forearm; he tell Lilac that if the plant juice causes a rash, then they shouldn’t eat it.
Then…shit gets weird. Like, really weird. Lilac starts hearing voices and Tarver is adamant that she’s cray cray, but obviously there’s something to it. The voices seem to have some prescient ability and frequently warn Lilac about incoming trouble. These voices – whoever or whatever they are – also have some control over matter, and they are able to create exact copies of material objects that Lilac and Tarver have lost. Tarver begins to accept that the voices are real, and he and Lilac bond over the shared trauma and then one thing leads to another and then…aliens. I can’t really say anything more about that without spoiling the book, but trust me when I say it was weird.
Something happens with the aliens that literally had no purpose except to create drama between Lilac and Tarver. Then the two go through this horribly cheesy series of events where they’re spouting off things like:
“I’m not your Lilac anymore, Tarver.”
“You’re you,’ he repeats, his eyes full of grief. ‘You’re the same girl who crashed on this planet with me, who I dragged through forests and over mountains, who climbed through a shipwreck full of bodies to save my life. You’re the same girl I loved, and I love you now.”
Barf. I don’t usually mind some cheddar in my romance stories (especially YA romance), but this is just too much. It was probably made worse by the fact that I listened to this on audio, and hearing someone say those kinds of things out loud really makes you realize how ridiculous they are, even when the narrators are as good as Cynthia Halloway and Jonathan McClain. Maybe I would’ve found the second half of These Broken Stars less ridiculous if I’d been reading the print version.
I think this is a standard case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Everyone else seems to love These Broken Stars and thought it was beautiful – even the people who don’t normally read YA or romance. Maybe I was just feeling grumpy. Then again, maybe I’m just not a fan of grandiose declarations of love brought on by weird alien things.
Those of you who have read These Broken Stars, do you think I’m being a grump? Is it just me? Did anyone else think there was a marked difference between the first and second halves of the book? Sound off in the comments!