Thursday, November 7, 2013

ARC Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

Title: These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1) 

Author: Amie Kaufman 

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Release Date: December 10th, 2013

These Broken Stars is an absolutely stunning debut. I read this in four hours, unable to even change the repeating playlist on my iPod as my fingers were too occupied, flipping page after page. Ever since reading Sara Creasy’s space-opera duology earlier this year, I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed that the science-fiction genre would take the plunge into terraforming planets. Thus, for me, These Broken Stars is both science-fiction and young adult at their finest. It brings forth a dangerous, mysterious, but thrilling new planet as its setting, all with a backdrop of teenage survivors.

I was besotted with this novel from the first chapter itself. These Broken Stars is told in alternating perspectives between Lilac, the rich daughter of the man who founded the galactic empire of our story, and Tarver, the self-made war hero who rose up from his middle-class status, only to still be considered the lowest of the low among the upper-class society he serves. When Lilac and Tarver meet unexpectedly aboard the Icarus, they think nothing of it; after all, on a ship so huge, what are the chances of them seeing each other again? Quite decent, it seems, for the two find themselves on an escape pod together when the Icarus malfunctions. Against all odds, they wash up on an unknown planet, alive with terraformed plants, but no human life. With only each other to rely on, the two must find a way to survive on the harsh new planet they’ve been placed on – or die trying.
Although its world-building isn’t the most intricate, the world of These Broken Stars is uncharted territory for YA – thankfully so. It sets up an intriguing universe, one with multiple planets and a strict hierarchy. We see this class order in its most brutal form when it comes to Lilac, who is forbidden from all contact with other men, not for any punishment she will receive, but rather for the death they will face. Thus, when Tarver meets Lilac for the first time, she is charmed at his genuine interest in her, though she must quickly push him away. When the two are stuck together on an escape pod, and then on a mysterious planet, their relationship is terse and frosty, with neither of them able to get along. Moreover, burdened by their stereotypes of one another, they are quick to judge and slow to trust.

It is this, I feel, that makes These Broken Stars such a spectacular YA novel. While Lilac feels most at control in her society balls, Tarver is in his skin in the dense forest they find themselves in. As a Major, he is used to scouting new and difficult terrain, having lived on many different planets, thus the reversal of power in this situation is interesting to watch. And the reason I mention that this situation is so perfect for the YA age group is because it automatically lends itself to so much growth. As Tarver and Lilac grow accustomed to one another, learning to live with, understand, and even like each other despite their bristly exteriors, they also discover parts of themselves. Lilac, most noticeably, embraces who she really is, underneath her layers of frills, rising to the challenge of surviving and turning into a hardened, but emboldened, young woman. For Tarver, his growth stems from the emotional attachments he finally allows himself to feel, tackling his past demons along with discovering his emotional vulnerabilities.

Alongside these immense routes of self-discovery, however, is the slow build-up of an equal relationship. Where both Tarver and Lilac are quick to assume the roles in which they are most skilled, they learn to balance the load and the stereotypical stigmas that cling to their economic status fade away with time. Furthermore, the slow-burn romance that gradually builds between these two is captivating. Although their relationship starts out with little trust and more than a few lost tempers, it shifts into a strong friendship and from there, the leap to that eventual first kiss is agonizing, but worth it. I was surprised by the depth of emotion I felt for these two strong characters, perseverant in their need to survive, but also in their love for one another. And, surprisingly, I don’t cringe at using the word “love” here – it’s hard-earned and worth it.

While These Broken Stars takes place on a different planet altogether, giving rise to its science-fiction genre labeling, it is, primarily, a survivalist story. Tarver and Lilac’s relationship is an entertaining forefront, certainly, but the situations these two find themselves in are written with poise and depth, managing to add layers to both the characters and the plot at the same time. Additionally, there are traces of the paranormal underlying this tale, as mysterious whispers follow Lilac wherever she travels. Yet, though it spans many genres and topics, Kaufman’s debut is tightly written, woven with a dual narration that is not only moving, but distinct.

If there are any flaws with this story, it is that one or two plot threads are wrapped up a little quickly towards the end. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the full explanations for them remain a little shabby, but to be frank, I wasn’t too bothered by this fact. After all, these same plot devices caused my heart to rupture, giving me more than a fair share of emotional turmoil while reading this book, so I was glad to be well-and-done with them after a certain point. Granted, there are a few issues I feel could have been fleshed-out a tiiiny bit better, but I have little to complain with a story so flawless. Thus, I feel as if the ending of this novel is, ultimately, adequate, and reads perfectly as a stand-alone, though sufficiently whetting the appetite for future companion novels from this world. Infused with depth, three-dimensional characters, and ground-breaking new ideas, These Broken Stars will likely leave you dazedly pleased and profoundly giddy. I know I still am.

A Note on the Cover: I seem to have gone from the mentality that pretty covers equate books I simply have to get my hands on to pretty covers equaling books I really need to run away from. Sadly, beautiful covers have tricked me too often in the past, but thankfully, the cover of These Broken Stars speaks no lies. And, best of all, the cover is totally relevant! Lilac wears an elaborate green dress when she is ship-wrecked and has bright red hair, while Tarver wears his usual gear during this novel. I'm still reeling from the fact that a YA cover managed to get it right, so let's hope this is a first for many more covers to come! (And by that, we all know I mean I'm hoping for some more ethnicities to emerge on these covers. Wouldn't that be a surprise?)


  1. I started this book yesterday, so I'm thoroughly pleased to your rating for this. I found this book a bit hard to get into at first, but once I'd stopped reading yesterday I have to say I was completely enamored by the beautiful world that the authors had created. Also Lilac hasn't started off with the best impression on me, but I'm glad to see you mention that there was growth for both characters. Another lovely review Keertana!

  2. About the cover, I was wondering why the guy is wearing simple clothes and the girl is wearing a dress. Now I know why. I'm really glad I read your review, Keertana. I also seem to have acquired the same mentality about books with pretty covers so I'm glad to hear that the story did the cover justice (and vice versa). And I'm also happy to hear about the slow-burn romance! And oh, thank words that this reads as a standalone. I really hope companion novels become the trend in the next few years!

  3. I'm so glad this is coming up on my tbr as soon as I finish Crash Into You! The combination of such an original world and fascinating, equal characters, even though they come from different class, is too fascinating to resist.
    Thank you for the lovely review, I'm so glad you enjoyed this as much as you did.

  4. A gorgeous AND relevant cover?! Wonders never cease! I have yet to read this one, but seeing such a favourable review from you has convinced me I should. Wonderful thoughts, Keertana :)

  5. WOO HOO!!!! I absolutely loved this one too Keertana, it just blew me away. I loved both Lilac and Tarver, and I was riveted from page one wanting to see how the two of them would fare after the crash.

    I'm with you on the covers, I think we've all been burned by a gorgeous cover before, but this story lives up to its pretty packaging and then some!

  6. I've been waiting for this for a long time. So glad to hear you loved it.

  7. I've been wanting to read this.. not just because of the cover (I'm like that too) but because of the title! LOL

    Oh this does sound so good and I like the fact it could be read as a standalone. I hate it when they throw cliffies into the mix. Don't need them when a good book brings me back to the series. Brilly review!

  8. Girl this one is my next read and honestly I haven't even read the blurb for it (yeah I kinda requested it just based on that cover - I'm a shallow person sometimes), so I'll read your review after I read the book. But regardless I'm so so happy you enjoyed it! :)

  9. I consider myself a recent scifi convert after LOVING Firefly. TV show, I know, but I'm sure that my love can transcend mediums and apply also to books. I have been meaning to read Sara Creasy's duology after reading all that praise for you - eventually! And now it sounds like I have another solid scifi book to add to my list. :) Lovely review, Keertana! I'm glad you found another scifi novel that worked out for you.

  10. Honestly, I was really afraid of this book because the cover was just too pretty to actually have good content as well! But I've only heard consistently raving reviews, so I guess it really must be a dream come true!

    I'm glad to hear that YA is branching out in its sci-fi genre. I love dystopian sci-fis, but let's get a bit of variation here folks. I'll definitely pick up a copy of this one when it comes out!

  11. I've heard so many great things about this book, and that cover!! Fits so well with what you've described, I love myself an intricate tale, will need to check this one out =)

    Alicia @ Summer Next Top Story

  12. I had to skim your review since I am reviewing this one tomorrow but I am so glad you loved this one as well! I gave it 4.5 stars too--who wouldn't? Close to perfection, this one.


  13. This sounds so fun! I'm really looking forward to picking it up, based on the excellent reviews I've been reading. I have to agree with you on the cover thing too - recently I've been shy of gorgeous covers, because they more often than not concealed a story that let me know - so good to know this one delivers!

  14. This is such a killer review, K! I loved this book too and WOO HOO for finding another sci fi nerd like me who LOVED all the terraforming stuff! I have to say that when I read about it in TBS it was my first experience with that concept. And then I went online and discovered that it is indeed a very real life theory. In my review I go on and on about this and how freaking cool and exciting I found this part of the book to be. I agree I hope there will be more books that delve into this topic because I think it's fascinating.

    This whole book was fascinating, actually. I loved the examination of class and looking at corrupt big money as the enemy. And I loved that it was also a survivalist story. Sometimes those don't jive with me because I put myself in the same situation in my head and I know I would be dead in two minutes flat, but this book was different.

    And talk about UNPREDICTABLE. I was totally on the edge of my seat while I was reading and completely surprised by some of the things that happened (you KNOW what I am talking about here!)

    And the swoony romance. Sigh. It was gorgeous and steamy but also one that carried weight. I loved it. And I love Tarver. he was my fave pov to read.

    I am so excited about the companion books--I can't wait to get back to this world:) Super review!

  15. I love survivalist type stories and this one sounds utterly amazing! I have a copy of this so I'm so excited to dig in. I can't tell you how happy I am to hear that this can be read as a stand alone and that the rest of the series are companions!! Yes! I'm so sick of the standard YA trilogy, waiting years for the story to finish. Lately that wait seems to be a huge disappointment for so many. No thanks! Lovely, lovely review, Keertana! :)

  16. I've seen about three other reviews for this book today and all of them included 4.5 star ratings too! That's definitely reassuring as I've been looking forward to this one and plan to get around to it soon. I love science fiction, but it's getting harder and harder to find something within the YA sector that really ticks all the boxes for me. I'm feeling really confident about this one now. Stunning review as always, Keertana! :)

  17. I'm so excited that this is coming up on my TBR now that I've read your review! I doubt I'll be able to read it in four hours like you, but I will make sure to start it only when I have time to be glued to it properly! :-) Beautiful review Keertana!

  18. I also loved this book, Keertana but I totally agree with you about the abrupt ending. But unlike you, it really bothered me. The rest of the book was plotted so well and was so perfect for me that it was a huge letdown for me for it to end the way it did.

    The thing that blew my mind the most about this book was Lilac's character arc. I despised the girl in the beginning, and by the ending I ADORED her. That is some skillful writing.

    Psssst. I think the word you are looking for is uncharted. You have unchartered. ;)

  19. I can be completely superficial about covers and this one is just beautiful. Glad to hear that you liked the book too! This one is coming up on my to-read list fast and I can't wait to get started!

    Jen @ YA Romantics

  20. Yeah, we're on the same page about the ending. I wish it had taken its time a bit more, but I'm so glad there was no cliffhanger.

    And I love when space books talk about terraforming. I"m surprised more don't; it is ALWAYS cool when that stuff is mentioned (like in the movie Aliens).

    Kate @ The Midnight Garden

  21. I love this review so much, Keertana! We are in agreement on the rating, too--4.5 very strong stars for me as well. I don't think the end bothered me as much as it did you and Kate (and Kara, it seems), I should go back and reread to see what it was that stuck out for you. Can't wait for book two, though--I'm very glad that it's going to be a companion novel rather than a straightforward sequel.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  22. I saw this review last week, but wanted to post mine before I looked at it. I get a little thrill when I see how many other people loved this one as much as I did!

    Heather had to tell me that teraforming is a real concept, and with that information this book became even more possible. I love your whole paragraph on Lilac and Tarver and how they both grew within this story. Although Tarver is the much more experienced survivalist, neither would have survived without the other, and he never overshadows Lilac. In fact, she gets much stronger as the story processes. I love the little bit of pride and prejudice in how they see each other at first and the ways that changes. Despite the fact that he has a tiny role on screen we also believe the looming threat of Lilac's father throughout and it's part of the tension between them. YES about the cover!!

    I'm so excited to see where else Kaufman and Spooner take us in this world.

    Beautiful review as always, friend!


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