These Broken Stars is a well written YA science fiction novel that does circumvent a lot of the cliches in the genre. What begins as a "Titanic" type disaster turns into a survival story with the characters slowly bonding over the course of their ordeal.
Lilac LaRue is the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the galaxy. Tarver Merendsen, son of a teacher and a poet, comes from humble origins. When Lilac's father's flagship unexpectedly fails, both are forced to use each of their unique talents to survive the disaster - and then find help on the oddly empty terraformed planet they've been stranded upon. But things are not as they should be and both are going to be forced to find inner strengths in order to solve the mystery of the planet and the disaster.
Lilac is a strong character and brings as much to the plate as her male counterpart. What I feared would start out as a 'big misunderstanding' (which would be yet another endless bickering between the two) ended up having a good root cause and quickly overcome by the very real dangers they face together. There are very few deux ex machina to make their journey easier and the mystery at the end justified the middle survival story.
I especially liked that throughout, they each have to save each other and both are more than they seem on the outside.
The Audible version has both a male and female narrator and both did a very good job with the characters.
This is the second 'slow burn' YA title I've read/listen to this month. But unlike Matched by Allie Condy, this heroine's langour isn't boring nor does it create a flat character. That's because protagonist Nikki has spent 100 years away from her 17 year old life, trapped in a purgatory. She has to regain emotions lost during that time - and she does over the course of the book. The character development is palpable.
I enjoyed Everneath - there were plenty of mysteries and the 6 month Persephone myth added impetus to the story. As with many YA stories of late, the hero was a bit too good to be true. Although author Brodi Ashton attempted to give him some foibles, they weren't really believable and we didn't get much in the way of his characterization as a result. The same could be said of her best friend, who is almost a cardboard cut out throughout.
But that said, the story flowed smoothly and I enjoyed the ride. I will be purchasing the next title as well.
The audible performance was very good and added to, rather than detracted from, the story.
I never thought I'd give a 5-star review for a book with practically no plot and a bunch of fairly unlikeable characters. But it is a testament to author Mafi's skill that I was completely engrossed throughout the entire series. Yes, it is by no means a perfect collection; but the few faults are far outweighed by the emotional pathos and character development across the entire story arc. And well, there's Kenji - one of the funniest (and most fun) 'best friend' in any book I've ever read. I'd never have thought I'd be laughing as much as I did from Kenji's scenes. Anyone who stopped at book 1 is advised to give book 2 a chance - just for Kenji.
Plot: Omega Point is destroyed, the survivors living desperately, and Juliette has been safely hidden in Warner's compound apartment. In the time spent recuperating from being shot by Anderson, Juliette comes to a greater understanding of herself and the true nature of Warner. But Adam, Kenji, and the rest can't understand her new trust/respect of their hated enemy. And quite frankly, Warner doesn't even care. For him, it's all about Juliette and everything else is irrelevant. But together, Juliette and Warner will bring the survivors together and form a plan to take out the supreme commander and exact revenge. If they don't kill each other first.
Surprisingly, despite an abrupt end (the action ALL takes place in the last 10% of the book), it finishes in a satisfying manner. But what really set this book and the series apart for me is that there was so much character growth and contemplation of human nature. Most of Ignite me is Juliette coming to understand herself, about Warner's true nature, Adam and puppy love, and about the true meaning of strength. Anyone who has read the two novellas that proceeded this book will already know Juliette's conclusions about her relationships with Adam and Warner. It is all smartly written and for once, I really appreciate that a character understands WHY she loves someone and why they would love her back.
I think a series like this hits several sweet spots for me simply because I appreciate emotion when done correctly and a romance that isn't what it seems. If anything, a lot of the book is showing the negative aspects of a relationship and how easy it is to be confused and to be weakened by the wrong partner. Considering most YA teen books are about first loves and far too perfect matches (with no understanding of why the characters are even attracted to each other) Shatter Me really stood out.
The let downs? I wish the x-men subplot had been jettisoned (the "Juliette super hero spandex suit was back in this book, sadly). It drew the attention away from the pathos and that was both a distraction and a frustration. The book could really have stayed focused on emotion and development rather than superheroes and physical strength.
In the end, a tale of obsessive love, introspection, and a far from perfect (set) of love interests kept me hooked and eagerly reading. This was definitely not a story about either a dystopian landscape or insta-perfect-love. It's all about Juliette's growth from a shuttered, shattered, broken soul into a strong and independent person who learns her own strengths.
Note that I listened to the audible version of this book and the narration was excellent. The narrator did an good job and the producer/narrator really deserve a raise for the smart choices made to bring this version to oral form.
I look forward to Mafi's next series.