Currently Reading: Across the Universe

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)The doctor starts straightening the pencils I dumped on his desk. He's seriously OCD. But...I wonder how much of him is real. He's as expressionless with me as he is with Eldest. I doubt he likes me—but he did stand up for me when Eldest threatened to throw me out of the hatch. As for how the doctor feels about Eldest...I thought he respected him, maybe even feared him, but he seemed to move closer to the door when I was trying to listen in on his conversation with Eldest. Did he do that on purpose? Now—is he trying to get me to ask the right questions? Or am I just playing mind games with myself?

"Last Season," the doctor says, "we had some trouble. But it has nothing to do with this."

"It might. How do you know?"

"Because the person who caused trouble last Season is dead," the doctor says. "Anything else?"

Author: Beth Revis

Synopsis: When Amy Martin was cryogenically frozen with her parents, she expected to wake up three hundred years later on a new planet. Instead, she wakes up still on the ship, her freeze unit unplugged by someone who left her to die, and she would have drowned in melting ice if the doctor and Elder hadn't found her in time.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Elder expects to take over running the ship from Eldest; he was born and raised with that expectation. But as he studies with Eldest and does his own searches, he discovers that nothing about the ship and the carefully ordered society is quite what it seems.

Notes: I hesitated over reading this book for a long time because a lot of its buzz—and it got a lot of buzz—included descriptions of a ship called Godspeed, fueled by lies. Out of a general dislike for antagonism, I tend to avoid works that appear to be based on the assumption that faith is evil.

Of course, that avoidance can be based on me making a bad assumption. Arabella mentioned the book several times, with a warm recommendation, so I read it. And to my delight, I was proved quite wrong. The story isn't finished yet, but while Revis may not use the sequels to make a case for religion, I doubt very much that she'll use them to make a case against.

Apart from showing some value for faith, Revis works with some very common YA themes; celebrating differences, for instance. She focuses on appearance, opinion, gift and personality, championing the humanity of true diversity. All that, however, works toward the ultimate question of free will. That, more than anything, is what Elder and Amy must grapple with aboard the ship Godspeed.

I am very interested to see where she goes with those ideas.

My favorite part of Revis' writing is her detail. This meant I sometimes got more than was at all comfortable; the freezing experience, for instance, was well imagined and horrifying. Also, an advisory for parents of the tender-aged: there is some open sexual behavior (not between the main characters, however), and an attempted rape is described in more detail than I'd give, say, a twelve-year-old. Neither is portrayed as a good thing. Elder is in lust with Amy, but I don't recall his thoughts being particularly graphic.

Beyond all that, the detail meant that the book was very vivid, the sort of thing to stick in your mind. I felt as though I could see Amy and Elder, Harley's paintings, the stars outside the hatch. I loved the grav tube rides and the rare bright colors. Revis managed to pull this off without long distracting paragraphs of description, blending the visual with the action. It was well done.

Twice in the course of the tale I was more surprised by information than I should've been. In both cases, I think it would have been easy and necessary to either delete the twist or prepare the reader for it. It really startled me; it's a bit unusual for something like that to make it past editing. Other than that, the pace and flow of the story were excellent, carried by good strong prose.

I don't know if it was intentional, but there's a rather poignant echo of Lewis' The Silver Chair in chapter 27.

Also, the story gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "'Tis the Season." Ack.

Many a YA book is written and left open for a sequel, but this one demands it. It didn't end on a cruel cliffhanger, but there's definitely more to this story.

Recommendation: Read it under an open sky. You might find yourself glad and grateful for Earth.

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