April Book Buddies Review: These Broken Stars

Posted May 1, 2015 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Book Buddies Reviews, Reviews / 3 Comments

Book Buddies newCristina & Lauren Read:

April Book Buddies Review: These Broken StarsThese Broken Stars by Amie KaufmanMeagan Spooner
Series: Starbound Trilogy #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on 2013
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 374 •Format: PaperbackSource: Purchased

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 to 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 in this place 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. The first in a sweeping science fiction trilogy, These Broken Stars is a timeless love story about hope and survival in the face of unthinkable odds.

Book Buddies is a discussion style review I participate in every other month with my friend Lauren who runs the blog Bookmarklit. We choose a themed book for the month, read it, and the have a discussion where we both discuss themes and aspects that really stood out to us.Book Buddy Reviews are posted during the last week of the month.You can see our review in a Q&A format with half posted here, and half on Lauren’s blog!

*This discussion contains some spoilers.

1) The premise of These Broken Stars relies on an often overused romance trope of a working class male and a rich, upper class female. Do you think the novel portrayed this trope as a cliché or did the romance feel believable to you?

C: I’ll admit at first I was expecting to think the romance was going to be the same old girl and boy hate each other and then inexplicably fall in love story. However, I was surprised that I DID become invested in their relationship, and I think that’s because getting from hate to love was very gradual. Since it’s mainly a survival story and Lilac and Tarver are literally the only people around for 90% of the book, their nuances really came through and I could clearly get a sense of how they let their guard down around each other, how they grudgingly came to appreciate and rely on each other, etc. In the end I think this situation where the reader is really forced to examine their relationship in such an isolated setting helped me to become invested in the progression of their relationship.
L: I know what you mean and definitely agree. I personally love the hate-to-love trope in YA because one of my favorite things in a relationship like that is the funny banter and sarcasm. Lilac and Tarver had a lot of that and the “love” part didn’t come as quickly as most books using that trope. It was a nice slow burn, which I enjoy a lot too. It was interesting to see them in an isolated setting. Usually it may make me wonder if the relationship was just built around survival, or the whole “last person on earth” thing – but I believed it to be more than that. You could see in the very beginning of the book how interested in each other that they actually are, but it quickly turns to hate because of society’s limits. Seeing them escape those confines and explore the relationship while on their own made it feel real.

2) The ship was named the Icarus, after the Greek myth of the man with engineered wings who flew too close to the sun despite being warned not to, causing him to fall into the sea. What did you think of this foreshadowing? Did it seem too obvious to you? Do you think it served to depict how truly arrogant LaRoux is?

C: I definitely saw the irony in naming the ship the Icarus, and was floored that there was ANYONE arrogant enough to name their creation Icarus and tempt fate that way. However, this book so many strange turns that I even found myself questioning whether or not the ship was meant to crash and the name was some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy (that theory didn’t really pan out but I had fun with it, haha). In a lot of ways this book reminded me of the Titanic: the “unskinable” ship, the division of the classes aboard it, the escape pods not functioning properly (like their not being enough lifeboats on the Titanic). I think LaRoux, perhaps like the creator of the Titanic, overestimated his abilities. I think it’s interesting to note that LaRoux’s symbol is a lambda, a Greek letter, and he also named his ship after a Greek myth. I wonder how deeply the ancient Greek culture is embedded in this society.
L: I thought of this too! I had similar thoughts about how maybe the ship was meant to crash like that and I can’t help but wonder why he named it that. He clearly was an arrogant man and must have thought his creations were better than anything else out there; if anyone could survive it, he thought he could. I’m really interested to explore the rest of the world in the companion novels because I feel like we’ll fully learn more about the reaches of LaRoux and his company. It seems like he has ties to almost everything in the galaxy; it’s no wonder he was arrogant enough to name his ship that! He probably feels unstoppable. Although, sorry for the spoiler – it seems that maybe Lilac has helped to “stop” him in at least one way by the end of the book.

3) Before every chapter, a fragment of an interview with Tarver is transcribed that usually foreshadows what is about to happen in the chapter. What did you think about this writing technique?

C: I actually really liked this technique! It made me excited to read what was about to happen and to fit how what Tarver said in the interview into the events of the chapter. The only things I disliked about this technique was that some sections of the interview used felt repetitive, and it ruined the suspense a little because it means you know that Tarver survives.
L: That may have been my favorite part about the book. I was so eager to see how it all ended up because of the interview! When they started asking questions about Lilac’s health, I was getting a little nervous. The foreshadowing here was really well-done. I’m the type of person who generally prefers a happy ending, so I kind of enjoyed knowing that they would survive (or at least that Tarver would). There was still some suspense in the sense that we didn’t know how they would make it out or why he was being interrogated to that extent. I knew something crazy must have to happen on the planet to require that serious of an interview. I liked also not being sure if Lilac was going to survive, because sometimes it implied that she didn’t (or that she was seriously injured/sick).

4) Colonialism and imperialism are large underlying themes in this story, with LaRoux industries terraforming new planets and oppressing the existing beings that already reside there. Do you feel as if the characters learned from their experience with colonialism and the native beings? Do you feel the book satisfactorily explored how imperialism imprisons the imperial entity?

C: I think this book scratched the surface of much deeper issues with space colonialism that is going on in this series. Tarver hints to civil unrest he faced on Avon, which I have a feeling has to do with nefarious reasons regarding LaRoux industries. I also think that colonialism was handled in an interesting way in the books, as readers had to figure it out as the story went on, rather than just being told “planets are being colonized and it’s bad.” For example, when Lilac and Tarver start hearing the voices on the abandoned planet it’s eerie and disturbing, and I was 99% sure they were going to be from a malevolent source. However, the “scary” foreign beings turned out to really be benign and victimized by LaRouz industries, and seeing a force that you thought was an antagonist being oppressed is a really interesting turn of events. I think that the authors did a great job with “showing” instead of “telling” when it came to colonialism.
L: I’m sure this will be explored more during the following books in the series! I’m hoping it does just scratch the surface of this issue because there’s much more that could be done with it. Thole galaxy is run by LaRoux and it seems like a cautionary tale about one person or organization becoming too powerful. I was slightly confused about the terraforming planets and the beings that were on that planet, but your answer kind of clarified it a bit more for me! One thing I’ll say – and will get more into on my blog – is that the world-building could have been a little better for me. I felt like the character development took center stage, which was nice, but I ended up being a little confused about what actually happened with the beings and the terraforming of the planet. The concept of imperialism is something I hope to see more of between the next few books.

5) Death and resurrection is a huge theme in this book, and the rules are different on this strange planet that Tarver and Lilac find themselves stranded on. Humans can be brought back to life by harnessing energy from powerful sources (in this case, the non-physical beings native to the planet) and this is witnessed through a major character death and resurrection. How did you feel about this non-traditional approach to a human life cycle? Did you see the themes of death and resurrection play out in less obvious ways throughout the novel?

C: I was sort of skeptical of these beings being able to resurrect humans, and I still am. I mean, does that mean the characters are really still “human” if there DNA has been altered? Will they have special powers? Does it make them immortal? It raised a lot of questions that I hope are explained and not supposed to be taken at face value. I think the themes of death and resurrection are seen throughout the book in other ways too. The old Lilac and Tarver both “die” metaphorically on the strange planet and are reborn into newer, stronger people by the time they’re rescued. There’s the death of Lilac’s snobbish, obedient self at the end of the novel when she stands up to her father. There’s the death of innocence (and ignorance) when Lilac discovers just what her father’s company is capable of doing, and she’s reborn as a jaded but wiser character. Tarver also makes several references to how being in the military changed him from the time he enrolled to a year later when he became a war hero, so Tarver has gone through an emotional death and resurrection prior to the novel’s beginning. In addition to all these personal deaths and resurrections Tarver and Lilac experience, the visions they have on the planet often manifest as resurrected images of those who have died.

L: I am definitely skeptical. Maybe this stems from my lack of knowledge on sci-fi literature (another thing to be discussed over on my blog!), but the death/resurrection piece of the novel confused me a little. It also kind of creeped me out. I watched the first season of Resurrection on TV, where dead people from the town come back to life, and it was pretty similar to this. Lots of people were scared or nervous around them – are they still the same person that they once were? Are people able to pick up where they left off? I love everything you say here about the themes of resurrection too, aside from the obvious literal death and resurrection. People have the ability to change throughout their lifetime (especially after major life events like this), and the characters certainly grew by the end of the book. Lilac finally was strong enough to stand up for herself to her father; Tarver was able to open himself up to her.

Continue reading the second half of our discussion on Lauren’s blog HERE!

Overall Thoughts:

These Broken Stars pleasantly surprised me, as I’m usually not drawn to the sci-fi genre. However, this book had fantastic and believable character development with a lot of eerie undertones and themes of colonialism and imperialism, and I love when there’s more than meets the eye to novels. I am so glad Lauren and I read this one together because there was so much to discuss, and I’d really love to explore more aspects of this fantasy world in the next book! Also, Tarver may be my newest book boyfriend 🙂

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Goodreads Challenge


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