Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 374
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

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.


This is the book I've been waiting for!

Finally. FINALLY a YA book that doesn't fall victim to all the annoying YA tropes. Finally a female character with nuance, depth, and issues that aren't ISSUES. Finally a male/female dynamic where they both have strengths and weaknesses, but their weaknesses don't diminish them and their strengths don't rocket them into Super Special territory. Finally a plot with twists and surprises and authors daring enough to GO THERE (several times).

Stereotypes begone!

That Lilac begins the book with few survival skills makes sense. That she acknowledges that fact objectively is a relief. That she recognizes the need to acquire these skills is commendable. But the fact that she learns them slowly and imperfectly, competently but at times almost grudgingly is what makes me want to give all my thank you points to Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

Why? Because I'm so tired of the YA super woman trope. If I were thrown into Lilac's situation, even if I wanted to be a survival hero, I wouldn't be. Not right away. And for sure not right after crash landing on a scary unknown planet after watching my friends die and not knowing if I'll ever get back to my normal life again.

I mean, sure, I'd have to accept it, and I love that Lilac takes the practical approach to her situation. She's strong in the way I want Strong Female Characters to be. Her strength doesn't come in comparison to others or by diminishing others and having her stomp around with her Super Special complexes. Her strength comes from her determination, her steely resolve, her bravery in the face of harsh situations, and in her ability to rise above and push herself beyond what she ever thought she could do.

Tons of points for her for that.

But I also love that she can also look at the tattered remains of her pretty dress and indulge in a few irrational snits because, much as she may accept her situation, she doesn't want to.

And that response rings true. But that's the thing about Lilac. Even when she's doing things that in other characters I would find annoying, I get it when she does it. She does it in a way that is fully self-aware. She doesn't defend her annoying emotions and actions, but she doesn't pretend she's not feeling them either. She feels them, embraces them, and then tries to improve beyond them. So I can both relate to her and then admire her.

Survival stories!

I have a weakness for survival stories, but I haven't found all that many that I actually like. The problem with survival stories (post-apocalyptic or otherwise) is that the characters so rarely know how to survive. So either I end up reading about a bunch of people making stupid decisions or situations that are annoyingly unrealistic.  

These Broken Stars breaks the mold by inserting a character like Tarver. He's competent. He actually knows how to survive in situations like this. He has a Plan of Action (I LOVE when characters have intelligent plans).

Not only does he know what they should do, but he's also been trained in managing non-trained persons in situations like this, so he knows how to handle Lilac (and isn't condescending about it). This was great both from a narrative/plot perspective and in providing another look at the characters.

And of course there's romance

But don't worry, this is first and foremost a survival story. There's lots of trekking through wilderness and trying to survive going on and that's always the main focus of the plot.

But, there is a romance, and overall it's very nice. Tarver and Lilac spend a lot of the book getting to know one another, not just in the "what have you done, what do you like" way, but also by seeing how they each behave in a pretty extreme circumstance. There's a lot of mutual respect in their relationship and while attraction happens instantly, their feelings deepen over time.

Every once in a while it does spill into the "too much" and "too ridiculous" territory. I consoled myself with the  idea that survival situations DO heighten emotions and the facts that 1) they have each saved the life of the other, multiple times, so there's a little understandably exaggerated dependency and thankfulness going on, and 2) they may in fact be the last two people on (this) planet.

So, I can give a little pass for the at times clingy extreme-love, even if I'm not totally convinced they'd stay together if they were ever rescued.

There's more to this story than staying alive

The beginning of the book is pretty much your standard survival story. Had it stayed like that, I would have enjoyed it just fine. But it doesn't stay like that.

There's a secret on that planet that totally holds up to the Big Reveal suspense (even if part of it is kinda sorta like something Joan D. Vinge already wrote and so was less of a surprise). There's an event that shocked me and then kept me guessing and speeding to the end to find out what would ultimately happen. And then there's the end, which was wonderfully jaw-dropping in a gut-punch kind of way.

Bottom line

I love it when authors can make me feel like I can't possibly contain my NEED TO KNOW NOW feelings. I love it when I'm consumed by a story. This is exactly the experience reading These Broken Stars has been and I am so super happy I read this book.

I'm not sure if I like the idea of this companion novel approach to a trilogy though. It has potential, but I'm not totally sold. I feel like so many things were wrapped up well enough in These Broken Stars and I'm afraid the other books will feel like forced stretching. If the story ended here, I think I'd be completely satisfied. But I guess I'll have to read This Shattered World to find out (or, better yet, check out early reviews and see if I should read This Shattered World).

I'll say though, I hope the next book focuses more on diving into the larger Diabolical Plot that was only touched on in These Broken Stars. If the sequel is a rehash and follows the same progression of "two characters get to know one another and fall in love" with only tiny dips into the greater Big Bad picture, then I'll be bored and annoyed.

These Broken Stars broke the mold. I hope the Starbound series keeps it up. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about These Broken Stars that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.


  1. These Broken Stars sounds GREAT! I love that the MC has to learn how to survive instead of just magically knowing, and that the Big Reveal holds up. Plus, if it's good for fans of Girl of Fire and Thorns, I'm there.

    1. You should definitely give it a try! The plot is totally different from Girl of Fire and Thorns, but the main character undergoes a similar amount of growth and coming into her own. The plots are also both more than just the romance and throw unexpected curve balls.

  2. I'm with you on the kickbutt heroines that can Do Everything. They're just as unrelatable as the spineless, wimpy ones. I think I like heroines that are internally strong (or that find internal strength during the course of a book/series), and authors often confuse this topic with the ability to kick every one's butt. Though I can't say that I've never liked a heroine who could do that (Hello, Kate Daniels). But also, I think that standing up in the face of vulnerability shows more strength than being strong all the bloody time.

    1. Yup, totally unrelatable. Sometimes I do like reading about them, but only sometimes when they're done just right. I think you'd like this book.

  3. Yes, Yes Yes! I can't wait to read this one:)

  4. Yay, I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Small. I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. I hope the next book focuses on the larger Diabolical Plot too :)

    1. Me too! I was totally surprised by how much I liked it. I wasn't expecting the survival aspect to play such a large part, and those twists!

  5. I've been hearing good things about this one from almost everyone, but the fact that it has your seal of approval actually makes me think I should pick it up! (I'm always a bit more hesitant when it comes to sci-fi books since it's not my favourite genre...)

    1. I think you'll like it! The sci-fi parts are really minimal and I'm not a huge sci-fi fan either. They start out of a space ship (called the Icarus, how's that for heavy handed foreshadowing?) but they're quickly off it and on the planet. Once they get there it might as well be a fantasy quest or survival book.

  6. Sounds absolutely fabulous. I have seen rave reviews of this one across the blog-o-sphere. I'm so glad you concur. I really like that the romance is in the background. I'm also super excited its not just a survival story, that it still has some really exciting surprises up its sleeves - yay! YA needs more stories with female leads like you describe.

    1. It was really good! the surprises come gradually, but build as the story progresses.

    2. Finished this one and it rocked my socks off - totally enjoyed the banter between the two MC. Was such a great book, very unexpected strange ending.

  7. I would not have given this book a second look, based on the cover, but your review makes it sound pretty good. Loving the not-annoying-YA-tropes aspect! (Might have to break my vow to never read a book with a long pretty dress on the cover . . .)


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