Book Buddies is a discussion-style review that takes place with one of my two buddies. (Learn more and see past reviews here) We both read the book and then have a private discussion about it. We post our discussion as a review on the last Wednesday of each month. You’ll be able to see our similar/different opinions on the overall book, characters, writing style, etc. – just like a regular review. The first half our discussion will take place right here, and the second half will be on Kaitlin’s blog! (Link at the bottom)
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner
Series: Starbound #1
Genres: Dystopia, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Published by Disney-Hyperion on December 10th 2013
Also by this author: Illuminae, Gemina, Obsidio , Aurora Rising , Aurora Burning
Format: Paperback (384 pages) • Source: Purchased
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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 into 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 here 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.
View Cristina’s part of the discussion here.
Some spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution.
What past experience have you had with sci-fi books like this? If you’ve read some before, did you find this book easy to slip into, or was it a challenge from lack of experience? What did you think of the world-building? It felt a lot different than the world-building in fantasy books I’ve read.
Cristina: I have very little experience with sci-fi, I think the only other YA sci-fi I’ve read is The Lunar Chronicles, and I’ve always loved Sailor Moon. Aside from that though, the genre never appealed to me (I’ve never been able to really get into Star Wars) so I did find this book a little slow going at first. Coupled with the fact that it’s largely a survival story (which I wasn’t expecting, and I’m not big into that genre either), I was surprised I ended up liking it as much as I did! I think you’re right, this novel was different for a fantasy in the sense that it focused much more on character development than world building. I actually feel like I still don’t know very much about their world AT ALL, but I think this may have been the point, to make us feel just as disoriented and lost as Tarver and Violet felt on the new planet. I was wondering about whether or not Earth existed too, but Lilac at one point mentions that Mars was the first planet that was ever terraformed. Since we’re always sending rovers to Mars and talking about potential life there in the present world, I took Lilac’s comment to mean that Earth first colonized Mars and this series takes place in the far future after humanity’s reach into space colonization has massively expanded.
Lauren: That makes sense. I was confused about the timing of the book too. In it, they’re dressed properly with top hats and really old school clothing, so it was hard for me to imagine that it took place in the future. I’m sure it obviously does, but it’s funny that style/clothing is always cyclical!
Did you like the characters of Lilac and Tarver right away, or did they take some getting used to? You mention the themes of resurrection on your blog – did their “resurrection” make them more appealing to you? Did you think a dual-POV was necessary for this book?
Lauren: Some of the first notes I wrote in my notebook were that I didn’t really like Lilac. I could tell that she was treating Tarver poorly because she was trying to protect herself and it all seemed very cliche at first. It seemed like the typical trope of a rich girl and a working class guy. I’m happy that the character development pulled them away from that trope in a lot of ways. They had much more serious class issues at hand… and Lilac’s history with her father on this was MUCH darker than I expected! I started to warm up to her more as I heard about her story and experience with Simon. My heart broke for her and I completely understood her guilt. I was definitely invested in their relationship and their story, and wanted to make sure they were able to keep it together once they inevitably/hopefully made it off that planet. The slow character change within Lilac, and perhaps the less obvious one in Tarver, definitely kept me engaged and allowed them to grow on me a bit as the story carried on. I couldn’t imagine going through this story and NOT liking the characters – it would have made it nearly impossible to read, as their daily activities were the only plot movement. As for the dual POV, I think it was imperative to get into their heads and learn what they each were thinking. It allowed me to really root for their relationship.
Cristina: I felt the same way about Lilac too! I could not stand her, even though I knew she had some “reasons” for treating Tarver so poorly. I agree though, once I started to find out the extent of the control Lilac’s father exercised over her I started to understand her and empathize with her a bit more. Tarver’s character growth was more subtle, but I think both of their character growth largely took place when they were forced to do a role-reversal in duties when Tarver cut his hand and became ill. It pushed Lilac to really see how brave and determined she was (repeatedly going back to the ship, having to take over all of the camp duties, etc) and forced Tarver to be vulnerable. I really enjoyed the dual POV, their voices were very distinct!
The answer to this question will be spoilery, so readers beware: What do you think happens next for our characters? What do you WANT to happen next for them? Do you think we’ll see them again in the upcoming books in any way?
Lauren: I would really like to think that they end up happy together and Lilac’s dad lays off of them a bit. I can’t say with certainty that this happens though. I feel like, knowing his arrogance and power, he tries to keep them apart in some way. The good thing is that she has some dirt on her father that I doubt he would like brought to light. I really am hoping Tarver got to see his family again and eliminate any of their worry for him. I hope that they make further appearances in other books! I know that the main”enemy” of LaRoux is only going to get bigger in the coming months; I can’t imagine that Lilac’s name won’t get brought up in conjunction with her father’s. ALSO, I just saw that This Night So Dark is a novella about these two! I’m excited to check that out now.
Cristina: I like happy endings too, but part of me feels uneasy, that it was almost TOO easy that they ended up together. I agree with you about LaRoux. Knowing the extent of LaRoux’s entitlement and greed, I highly doubt he’s going to cave so easily despite Lilac standing up to him. I think he’s still going to plot to tear them apart. I know the sequel focuses on new main characters and I’m sort of sad about that, because I want to know more about Lilac and Tarver’s relationship in society, and how they interact when not trapped on an abandoned planet! I think you bring up an interesting point about Lilac’s name constantly being brought up with her father’s. It’s not like Lilac can openly act like she’s against LaRoux Industries (as keeping what she knows about them a secret is part of her “bargain” with her father) so it’ll be interesting to see if she’s viewed as an antagonist by the characters in the next book!
You mentioned various connections to Greek mythology in your questions. After looking into the meaning of “Lilac” a little bit, I found that there is also a tie to Greek myths and the general associations with lilacs. Syringa (the botanical name for lilac) was a nymph. Her beauty captivated Pan (god of forests/fields) and he chased her through the forest. She was frightened by him and escaped by turning herself into a bush. Also, purple lilacs symbolize the first emotions of love, while white lilacs symbolize youthful innocence. What do you make of this?
Lauren: To be honest, the story of the Greek gods is maybe not as applicable as I would have thought, but maybe you have some interesting thoughts on that story! What the flowers symbolize, however, is really interesting to me. Lilac says at one point: “Lilac Rose LaRoux. Untouchable. Toxic. I should have been named Ivy, or Foxglove, or Belladonna.” I think her being named Lilac was pretty appropriate. The flowers that were referenced in the book were purple, which here means the first emotions of love. That’s definitely relevant in this story! If they were white, it may imply that the two of them were youthful, innocent, and just caught up in young love that may not last. The two of them experience quite a bit while on the planet and they are definitely no longer innocent. The fact that the flowers that appeared were purple can kind of imply that the two of them had started to fall in love there and that it could last. Lilac believed she was untouchable, but she grew up and thought of ways to change her father’s mind about the person she fell in love with. She was meant to think that she was toxic and untouchable because of her father, but now she is able to fall in love freely (hopefully!).
Cristina: I love that you looked Lilac’s name up and found this! I don’t know if the authors intentionally meant to connect the plot to this myth, but I think it’s VERY applicable. Lilac/Syringa as a beautiful nymph being chased through the forest by Pan reminds me a lot of Lilac storming off in the forest on the deserted planet and Tarver having to chase after her and protect her! The part where “she was frightened by him and escaped by turning herself into a bush” is also interesting, as Lilac’s dress she had on for a majority of the book and on the cover is green, and it wasn’t until she finally changed out of it that she let a lot of her defensive behavior drop and her snotty attitude abate. The dress was like a shield that reminded her of who she was and why she couldn’t have feelings for Tarver (and was arguably “scared” of these feelings because of what her father might do to him if he knew) so the dress was a disguise just like the bush! This might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s a really fun association to make!
Lauren: That makes sense! I’m glad you brought up the mythology piece with your questions and it seems like they all connect for some reason.
I ended up giving this book 4 stars. What final rating did you give the book and why? Will you continue on with the series? If so, what do you hope to see or learn more about within this world?
Lauren: I really enjoyed this one while I was reading, but can’t help but feel like not enough actually happened until about 60% of the way through the book. I appreciated watching their journey but it was a lot of explore – sleep – build a fire – explore – sleep. I’m okay with that, especially because of the character development happening simultaneously, but I don’t like to look back at a book and not remember anything worthwhile happening for most of the book. I think that’s the main reason I couldn’t bring my rating any higher. I am definitely interested in continuing with the series. I think the world is so fascinating and SO vast. I really am looking forward to meeting more characters on different planets. The theme of LaRoux Industries’ oppression will hopefully be further explored in a lot of different areas. I think there was great foreshadowing even for future books. I would like to think that maybe the final book in the series brings some kind of end to LaRoux!
Cristina: I also gave the book 4 stars! (It’s funny, we tend to rate our book buddy reads 4 stars!) It took me about 150 pages to really become engaged with the book, but by the end I was really invested and connected emotionally with what was going on. I did get a bit bored by the survival story aspect (it reminded me of the last Harry Potter book when the characters spend a huge chunk of the book wandering around the forest). This book had amazing character writing though, but the fact that it took me so long to get into is why I couldn’t rate it any higher. I really want to continue on with the series, and I agree with you the world seems so vast, I feel like I can already tell I want more than just a trilogy! I could probably read a whole encyclopedia on this world building.
Lauren: OMG I could not agree more with you about the final Harry Potter book. SO much wandering around; I thought it was so pointless.