Saturday, 24 September 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I picked this title as one of my five for the favourites challenge (pick books marked as favourites by your Goodreads friends). For some reason I could not quite understand, this one was calling to me to read it first, and so read it first I did. I went into the book with not a little trepidation, expecting some cheesy YA paranormal love story set in space. I was wrong.

Presentation: Average-sized YA paperback. There are a full 81 chapters (some are only a few lines or paragraphs) over 398 pages.

Story: Amy’s parents have signed up to start a new life on a new planet. They will be among the first group of humans to colonise this new world, 300 light years from Earth. Amy is acquired a special pass, allowing her to join her parents on this journey across the universe. All three are supposed to be awakened, along with all the other who’ve undergone the freezing process, when they reach the new planet. But something goes wrong. Someone unplugs Amy and she wakes up, finding herself on a ship led by a dictator, populated by mono-ethnic people who seem little more than sheep. Elder, set to become the next leader of Godspeed, finds Amy fascinating and is willing to do any- and everything in his power to help her. Because whoever woke Amy… they haven’t stopped with her.

Thoughts and impressions: I’m finding it quite hard to put my exact feelings about this book into words. If you know me, you’ll know that I have been lamenting the state of YA fiction for a while now. (Poorly written, blank heroines, heroes that only exist to adore the heroine, lack of plot, weird romance replacement plots that do not set a good example for young and impressionable girls.) But this book just blew every single one of them apart.

Let’s go through it point by point, shall we?

Poorly written – No, the exact opposite in this case. The book was very well written. The author took great care to show and not tell whenever possible. I knew right as of the very first chapter, when the freezing process is described, that I was going to like this story and that I would find the “science” presented in it a version for which I would readily suspend my disbelief. The author only occasionally slips into telling but this usually goes hand in hand with showing and is mostly for the scientific apparatus that exist on her ‘spaceship’, so I can easily forgive this.

Blank heroines – This heroine was feisty. She had a personality with strong points and fault, quirks and those little habits that really bug you. She didn’t want to face certain realities so she would quite literally run from them – running so she didn’t have to face them. Other times she would face things directly and stubbornly stand her ground even when it would have been in her better interests to relent. She was very raw about certain truths, freely admitting that she preferred to live in the delusions she’d created for herself rather than face the reality behind them. She was a very human character with whom I could connect on many levels.

Heroes that only exist to adore the heroine – Elder, like Amy, is a deep and interesting character. For the first part of the book, the story is actually more about him than Amy as Amy’s stuck in stasis so you get to know him first. For me, he’s very representative of the 16-year-old males I knew: not quite a child anymore, but desperately clinging to his rights to act the sulky teen; not quite a man, but righting tooth and nail to be recognised as such. When compared with the other characters on the ship, he’s the perfect example of being born into a certain mould but how our choices shape who we are. He has a life beyond Amy – an important one. He is to be the next leader of the ship and he knows it and he knows that he still has a lot of learn. He is adorable in his innocence, respectful of Amy and her wishes despite his fascination with her, and faithful to the knowledge his has always been told is infallible truth. He had a very important role in the story – possibly more important than Amy?

Lack of plot – Though the plot occasionally plodded along at its own pace, there was certainly no lack of it and almost all of the scenes felt carefully chosen, representing an important part of this world in the ship. It’s essentially a whodunit tale but with a sci-fi twist. It becomes obvious to the reader as of relatively early on in the story just who the real culprit is and it is rather infuriating at times that the characters overlook things that could not stare them more in the face if they tried… but this is balanced out by subplots and sub-subplots that keep the reader’s interest – while they can guess at the things behind them, they cannot guess spot on. This makes up for what deficiencies there are to be found in the main plot.

Romance replacement plots that do not set a good example for young and impressionable girls – Well, obviously this story did not need a replacement plot as it had a perfectly good plot as mentioned above. What’s more, the romance subplot is sweet and perfect for YA. The characters are allowed to take things at their own pace, neither pressuring the other, and they don’t both immediately fall on each other with declarations of undying love. I highly approve of this budding romance! Also, there is no uncomfortable love triangle, another point in this story’s favour.

There was a whole host of interesting side characters from the doc to Victria; the old woman whose name I’ve forgotten to Harley. I think Harley was definitely my favourite: an artistic soul broken by many things, strengthened by others; a good friend to both Amy and Elder in their times of need. A young man after my own heart!

Style: Written in the present tense, which is usually not a plus point for me. In this case, I was so absorbed by the story that I usually failed to even notice the tense use. For the rest of it, I enjoyed the style and was easily drawn in by everything to the point where time ceased to matter.

Final verdict: Amazingly vivid imagination has gone into the creation of this story. I loved it. The details were so incredibly intricate from start to finish, everything thought through so very thoroughly in a manner that really added the story’s already impressive worth. I’m already itching to get my hands on the sequel. 4 stars.
(High end 4, the only reason it didn’t quite make 5 was the infuriating blindness towards events that the characters often exhibited. Despite its flaws, it's still going on my GoodReads favourites shelf as the best YA (that takes itself seriously) that I have read so far this year!)

Extra notes: Invented bad language (e.g. ‘frex’). No sex.


  1. I love your review. You said everything I couldn't find the words to say. :) I loved Harley too. He was awesome.

    If only more YA books could be like this one.

  2. Thank you Char. :) It took me absolutely ages to write that review! Oh yes, Harley was a gem. I'll miss him in the sequel.

    I agree! I've got quite a few YAs to get through now... hanging with you guys has brought me back into a YA phase!

  3. Awesome review you did!! Thank you! I read this book a few weeks ago, and I'm so happy I did so! It was amazing, I fell in love with all the characters.

  4. Great review, I especially liked the science in this book. I agree with the budding romance thing


  5. Absolutely LOVED this book! Beth is genius! Awesome series! Great review(:

  6. This book is definitely one of my all time favorites. A Million Suns is amazing, possibly even better than ATU. I love the world that Beth has created. She has come up with a pretty original idea, especially in today's vampire/werewolf world. A Million Suns did not suffer from the sophomore slump that most second-books-in-a-series have. I love thie series, and can't wait for Shades of Earth.
    Thanks for the review!

    Alyssa Susanna

  7. Great review. The way you put it across is really unique!
    I really need to get to this book - I got it for Christmas, but still haven't picked it up! I think I'll have to bump it up the pile!

    Pen to Paper


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