July 26, 2012

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Published: 2011, Razorbill
Series: Across the Universe, #1
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Source: Library book
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This is the secret of the stars, I tell myself. In the end, we are alone. No matter how close you seem, no one else can touch you.  

By grace of having parents considered to be necessary in the establishment of Centuri-Earth, a new habitable planet 250 years away from our current Earth, sixteen-year-old Amy is part of a small group cryogenically frozen aboard a spaceship. Although she is hesitant at first – she'll be leaving Earth and everything she knows forever – she ultimately decides to stay with her parents. She may be forging into the unknown, but at least she won't be alone.

Only fifty years from Centuri-Earth, Elder is training to be the future leader aboard the spaceship Godspeed. He feels like the odd one out – younger than the other three generations onboard, not quite sure if he has what it takes to lead future generations. Godspeed is a technological marvel and completely self-sustaining, but Elder and the ship's inhabitants have already begun to count down to their landing. Everything seems fine until Elder finds a girl his own age frozen in a hidden level. She becomes awakened after nearly being killed, and Elder realizes that there is much he doesn't know, and that life aboard the spaceship is not quite what he always assumed it to be. Together he and Amy are determined to figure out the truth of Godspeed's mission, who wants to kill Amy and the other frozen people, and why the humans on the spaceship are just so very different from how people seemed to act back on Earth.

First off, I must mention that this book has dual narrators. I am not really a fan of using more than one narrator in a book. When I read a book, I want to be completely immersed in the experiences of one person. A lot of times I also end up feeling that the different narrations are not distinguishable enough. While I still feel this way after reading Across the Universe, it was interesting to get into the heads of both Amy and Elder. They understandably have different interpretations of the events throughout the novel. I think the dual narration is a smart choice for this novel, but I think more could have been done with it. I wanted even more from both of the narrators. It was interesting to hear the other character's thoughts on something that literally just occurred in the perspective of the other, but lots of times the second interpretation was either similar or at least predicable enough given my knowledge of the other character.

I am not a huge science fiction fan – give me something that really delves into scientific aspects and their explanations and I'm completely lost. Trying to figure out the science fiction aspects of Across the Universe never felt too inaccessible or like a chore for me, for which I was grateful. I think that the premise of this story is rather interesting. It's not the first story I've heard about people being cryogenically frozen or intergalactic trips to find a new planet to colonize, but in general it is well done. The idea of an isolated spaceship turning into a dystopian society? That the truly sane are the ones treated as mentally unstable? The pure wonder everyone exhibits at seeing stars, at being able to have proof that there's more to the world than the spaceship? All very good.

Although there are rays of hope throughout the novel, in general I found it to be rather dark. There's quite a bit of death throughout the story and some mentions of suicide. There's also an attempted rape scene. For me, however, the graphic scenes take a back seat to dark feelings throughout the book. Through Amy and Elder's perspectives we as readers witness feelings of hopelessness and despair. I think the book's darkness did make complete sense, however.

My main issues with this book stemmed from not enough characterization and the plot twists being a tad predictable. Amy is pretty complex and for the most part I enjoyed reading her sections, but I'm not convinced she's an entirely true representation of a teenage girl. Elder does initially seem like a product of Eldest's brainwashing. He gets a little better and I did like reading about him slowly discovering hidden truths, but he's kind of bland and I disliked how readily he does everything for Amy. I also thought that a number of the plot twists are pretty predictable. And the climactic scene resolves the current problem a little too easily.

I'm spoiled and feel like I've read so many wonderful YA books that really do challenge readers to understand certain themes, have fantastic characterization, and keep the readers guessing until the end. This is not really one of those books but that is not to say that it's a bad book, just not exactly what I want in a book. I am not sure if I will continue with this series. There were some huge questions remaining at the end, but I'm not sure I'm interested enough.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.

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