Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

13138635Title: These Broken Stars (Starbound #1)

Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Genre: SF, YA, R

Publisher: Disney Hyperion on December 10, 2013

Audiobook: Cynthia Halloway, Jonathan McClain, and Sarge Anton by Listening Library

Rating StarRating Starstar_half

 

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.

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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!

 

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  • Yeah, you’re the not only blogger I’ve seen to have given this a thumbs down. I probably won’t read it, since the premise didn’t grab me in the first place even before I saw the negative reviews…just wanted to chime in and let you know you’re definitely not the only one.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    • Phew, what a relief. I always feel bad being the party pooper on books everyone seems to like.

  • Meh. Followed by more meh. Even after other people gave it great reviews…..meh.

    • You mean you weren’t dying to read a YA romance? I’m shocked. 😉 It was pretty meh honestly…

  • Tammy Sparks

    I actually really loved this, but I know what you mean by the cheesy romance lines getting to be a bit much! I actually loved the weirdness of the second half, but that’s just me, I tend to love the weird:-)

    • Hey, if it works for you I say embrace it! The weirdness was a bit too out there for me, I’ll admit. Sometimes cheesiness can be cute – and other times it just gets out of hand.

  • Hummmmmmm. I have heard a lot of vaguely good things about this book but nothing specific. The first part of your review makes the book sound like heaps of fun but later… ah well, pity it tanked so hard.

    • I felt like I was reading two different books, to be perfectly honest! Banter-snark got replaced by too many grandiose declarations of love for my taste. But I can definitely see the appeal for some people!

  • You are so right! Listening to cheesy audiobooks just hits home the silliness of books. I was listening to Julie Kagawa’s Talon the other day, and was overwhelmed by how mall-ratty everything was. A lot of this comes down upon the narrators delivery, though, I think. Great review!

  • Oh I can’t stop chuckling at your review. I do think there was a definite big difference between the first and second halves of the book but granted she did start seeing things very early on pretty much as soon as they landed and started out on their trek across the planet’s terrain. As for the cheese – there is NO WAY I could have handled reading that. There are just some things that I can’t stand to listen to while I can instead read them. Love letters and romances and such would definitely be first among those. Because honestly even when I watch romance movies and the actors say cheesy things even when they are completely heartfelt sometimes it just makes my gut twinge with an errrrgggg realllly? But reading it seems to be different to me.

    As for the aliens I think they have a definite part to play as the trilogy continues. I’m not sure yet but I think only because I read the free short story. I don’t know if they come in at all in the second book (which I’m reading right now).

    I just really loved this because hey it was fluff and romance and right then when I read it I think that is exactly what I wanted/needed which normally I don’t usually want or need. LIke right now – I’m totally in the mood for some silly romance. I know our moods and the mode we take it in I think can totally effect how much we enjoy the book. sorry to write you a mini novel comment lol.