Khanh the Killjoy

Pretty good

These Broken Stars - Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner
This is a wilderness waiting to swallow me; I’d barely make a dent trying to fight it. There are no rules for me to learn, no points to be scored, no bluffs to be called. This is a hell I’ve never imagined. And I think I’m going to die here.

A lot of people have been calling this an intergalactic Titanic, and while there are certain similarities, particularly in the beginning of the book, the parallels to that doomed cruise liner ends there. I really liked this book. This is a beautifully written space opera, with elements of the paranormal. The plot is very much survival-based, and more than anything, it is the relationship between the survivors that makes this book stand out.

The writing is beautiful, the descriptions are exceptionally well done, without any elements of purple prose; it flowed exceedingly well, and had I not known that this was a collaboration between two authors, I never would have suspected that this book was co-authored. The romance was well built, and completely believable, although a little overwhelming at times given the environment and the situation. I wound up liking both of the characters, even if I didn't start off that way. Lilac and Tarver's relationship and its development was the best thing about this book. Warning: I wanted to punch Lilac in the face for the first 30% of the novel. She improves, I promise.

With that said, I do have reservations about the book that keeps it from being a great novel, including the slowness of the plot, the unconvincing character of Tarver (however much I love him, and I do love him), and the complete lack of world building.

The plot dragged on at times because an overwhelming part of the book is composed of the pair traipsing through an alien planet, trying to survive an unknown environment. The narrative flows well, but Tarver's character does not seem convincing to me as a male. He feels a lot like Ethan Wates, in the Beautiful Creatures series, for the femininity of his narration. He is a soldier, he is toughness mixed with compassion, but there are certain aspects about his narrative that does not make him feel entirely realistic as an 18-year old boy.

The Summary: Lilac LaRoux is the wealthiest heiress in the galaxy. She has spent her life surrounded by adoring fans, false friends, due to her status as the adored daughter of the galaxy's wealthiest man, a self-made engineer. He is a loving father who suffocates Lilac with his ovoerprotectiveness. Lilac knows that her father is only too willing to destroy any man who dares to come close to his precious only daughter.

Lilac Rose LaRoux. Untouchable. Toxic.
I should’ve been named Ivy, or Foxglove, or Belladonna.

Tarver Merendsen is 18, a war hero, more due to luck than anything. Heavily decorated for a brave act, he is now an honored guest on board the spaceship Icarus, but feels largely like a monkey being paraded around, until one beautiful red-headed girl catches his eyes. Lilac has no choice. She rejects him coldly. Humiliates him in front of a crowd. Lilac knows the consequences if her father finds out that this lower-class young man is interested in his princess.

Despite their distrust of one another, Lilac and Tarver are thrown together in an escape pod when something goes terribly wrong. Something has knocked the Icarus out of hyperspace. The ship is going to be destroyed.

A ripple of white-hot energy shoots through its metal frame. I taste copper, and then the universe goes black with a sound like a thunderclap in my ears. All the lights, the countdown, even the emergency lighting … gone. We’re left in utter blackness but for the stars outside the viewport.
Stars that are no longer stretched thin. The Icarus has been torn out of hyperspace.

The passengers must evacuate in the life pods. The Titanic had over 1100 people on board. The Icarus has over 50,000 passengers, and few survivors.

Their escape pod lands on an alien planet. The air seems safe to breathe, but the environment is nothing like what Lilac has known before. Lilac has grown up in a simulated natural environment, with perfect trees, perfect landscapes, she is unused to the reality of real, unsimulated terrain and its dangers, but she is tougher than she looks. Tarver, as a military man, is much more in command of the situation.

Lilac and Tarver have to work together. She is terrified, afraid, but brave, masking her insecurities with anger and hatred. He is still biting from the humiliation he received on board the ship, angry, frustrated at his attraction to her, despite her attitude. The two have a lot to work through if they are to remain alive long enough to be rescued.

But survival is not all they have to be concerned about. There is something strange going on on this alien planet. There are glimpses of things, shadows of people, disembodied voices. Is it the hallucinations of two minds in shock, or is it something more?

The Premise: One of my sole complaints in the book. Frankly, there is none. It's like being plunged into the middle of a season of Star Trek. Sure, it's entertaining, but man, give us some effing background, would ya? There is absolutely nothing about the past, about the present. There's not much mention of technology besides the hyperspace drive and escape pods and stars and a sci-fi-ish gun. There is nothing about the culture, the history. We don't know why this society is so strictly class-segregated. We know absolutely jack shit about this setting. It is a futuristic novel in name only.

The Characters: Loved them. I didn't expect this, because, as I mentioned, I spent about 30% of the book wanting to punch Lilac in the face, but Lilac turns out to be just the type of female character I like. Lilac is initially imperfect, even abonimable at points, but she matures from the experience; she has character, she is never one-dimensional. Lilac is a spoiled, pampered princess, but she is smart. However, what made me hate her at first was her attitude of "I must be strong: strong means bitchy." She is an absolute terror to poor Tarver in the beginning, as he struggles to get both of them to safety, and she persists on being obnoxious for a large chunk of the novel, in order to feel like she has control of the situation.

His opinion of me is already a lost cause—years later, when he looks back at this escapade, I’d rather he think bitch, than weakling.

Lila starts off being overly stubborn to the point of hurting herself. She is so determined to prove herself strong, right in everything she does that she will not admit to being wrong. Lilac would trample through a forest wearing high heels and a ball gown, for the sake of her pride. In her defense, and I like this about her, she does not complain. She ends up shredding her feet to shreds, and she does not shed a tear. Her pride will only go so far, and Lilac becomes a much more likeable character once she gets over herself. She is not afraid to admit she is wrong.

So yes, I was cruel afterward. I’m cruel because it’s the fastest way to get a man to lose interest, and trust me, I’ve learned how. My father taught me well. And maybe I’m cruel because it’s easy, and because it’s something...something I can be good at.

I really like Tarver's character, he is an absolute gentleman, and if I were to be stranded on a desert island, I'd want him as my partner. However, Tarver's narration does not feel accurate as an actual teenaged male to me. Yes, he is a soldier, but he is overwhelmingly, exceedingly romantic in his perception of Lilac from the very beginning, and as much as I like him, he is unconvincing as a man. He is too effeminate. For example, these are some of his observations about Lilac:

"Both her eyes are marked underneath with dark smears of blue and purple, and one is still marbled black and yellow as her magnificent black eye starts to fade. She’s pale, with new freckles from the sun overhead standing out like punctuation on a page.
But she’s captivating too, maybe more than she was before."

"There are dirty smudges mingling with the freckles all over her face, and that bruise on her cheek. Even in sleep, her mouth is pulled into a straight, determined line.
There are purple half circles underneath her eyes, and she’s sweaty, beat up, and utterly exhausted.
She’s never looked so beautiful."

Tarver's part of the narration is littered with his feelings, how much he finds Lilac beautiful, lovely, captivating. He constantly makes observations on her beauty, her hair, the marks on her face, the ways she enchants him. Tarver is an awesome guy, but he's just not a realistic one.

The Romance: I loved the way the romance between Lilac and Tarver was portrayed in this book. They start out as enemies, and their feelings grew beyond that, into trust, friendship, and something more. It was a really well-written love story. I love seeing from both their narratives, how their feelings and internal conflicts grew and changed, how they got past their reservations, how they gradually fell in love. Sweet is the best word to describe their romance.

Overall, a well-written and interesting book that is quite different from most YA paranormals and sci-fi out there.