Book reviews for Aussie teachers and their students.

Posts tagged ‘These Broken Stars’

Boomerang Book Winners for the Year 2014

Claire ZornI love books so much that it is nearly impossible for me to choose favourites.  However, I for the purposes of this blog (and because it may be useful for my audience of teachers and students) I am going to try very hard to play favourites.  Early January each year I plan to evaluate the books from the previous year, identifying those that I have found most enjoyable and, more importantly, the ones that are most useful in terms of their educational merit in the classroom.  I am going to call these the “Boomerang Awards”, since these are the titles which I am most likely to go back to time and time again as a teacher.

Overall “Boomerang Book of the Year 2014”

Without a doubt the best book I read in 2014 was an awesome title published by University of Queensland Press.  The Protected, written by Aussie author Claire Zorn is a gorgeous contemporary set in the rural setting of the Blue Mountains.  It tells the story Hannah, who struggles to  survive in the aftermath of her older sister’s death.  There is nothing I didn’t like about this story and if there ever was a book I’d be pleading to have in a class set,  it is this one.  A finely crafted story that is as beautiful as it is poignant, The Protected is suited to students in grade 9-10 for shared reading or, for older middle school students and senior school students through to year 12.

Runner-Up “Boomerang Book of the Year 2014”

Another book that I thoroughly appreciated was Zana Fraillon’s No Stars to Wish On.  Published by Allen & Unwin in 2014.No Stars to Wish On Fraillon’s story is told through the innocent eyes of 6 year old Jack, who is forcibly “removed” from his family and forced into a foster home as a Ward of the State.  In gorgeous prose we follow his mistreatment at the hands of the cruel Sisters and dare to hope that he will finally reunite with his family.  No Stars to Wish Upon is a uniquely Australian story that explores a dark episode in our history.  It is deceptively simple, however, the depths of its themes (and the darkness of the content) place it firmly within the Middle years.  I would have no hesitation in using it at year 9 as a shared text, for senior students in an independent reading program,  or as an extension text for independent reading by advanced readers in the latter part of primary school.

“Boomerang Best Series of the Year 2014”

These Broken StarsWith so many series appearing on book shelves across the nation (and “virtually” across the world), I felt it might be useful to highlight the one I  found most captivating for the year of 2014.  The Starbound Trilogy, written by Aussie author Amie Kaufman and American Meagan Spooner secures the title this year.  These Broken Stars and This Shattered World explore the Science Fiction universe where all is not as it first seems.  Where many series tend to follow the same protagonist for each episode, The Starbound This Shattered WorldTrilogy operates within the same world but with a different setting and different protagonist (the previous key characters seem to come back for cameo roles only).  For this alone I applaud the series, since each book will work as a stand alone book too!!!  I would not use this series as a class text (it is too long), however it is something to  share with your avid readers who are always looking for the next big thing.  This is it, bring on the film production!

That’s it for 2014.  If you like what you read please go back and read my longer reviews via the hyperlinks above.

by Tanya Grech Welden

“This Shattered World” by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner, Allen & Unwin (2014)

This Shattered World

I’m a little over YA series novels.  To me they reek of marketing; a tool to make me commit to buying more books (like I don’t already read and buy enough anyway).  Yes, this is the second in a series, and while I loved the first installment,These Broken Stars, I was a little tentative about its sequel.  Too often they fail to meet my expectations.  However,This Shattered World, succeeds where so many have failed.  Rather that writing a story that follows on directly where the previous left off, Kaufman and Spooner, have chosen to create a series within the universe of the first and while referencing characters from the previous book, they  introduce a new cast of characters in a fresh context.  It works; and more importantly, even though it is a series it operates effectively as a stand-alone novel.

This Shattered World focuses upon the characters of Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac who live on Avon.  From opposite sides of the track, the romantic elements provide unquestionable parallels with Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story type narratives.  This is a planet at war, with Jubilee representing the forces sent to crush the brewing rebellion in which Flynn plays a key role in.  Kaufman and Spooner’s writing is compelling and their development of character is admirable.  They have crafted a story which investigates intelligently the nature of political uprisings from both sides, along with the real cost to the humans involved.  Furthermore, and developing the Science Fiction elements of the story, This Shattered World, continues to explore how Scientists might manipulate people and technologies, calling into question ethics and morality.

Although I probably wouldn’t use this kind of book in the classroom as a shared novel; falling loosely into the Dystopian genre, it is something that I would definitely recommend to students from year nine or ten upwards.  For me, it is more Science Fiction than Dystopian and is a great story to extend students beyond The Hunger Games, while whetting their appetite for more sophisticated texts. Senior students may find it useful for an independent study, comparing the book with either Dystopian or Science Fiction titles.  However, to be fair the book probably lacks the kind of depth required for the rich analysis undertaken in higher level literature courses.

Apparently there is another story in the series yet to come.  I understand that this one explores life on Corinth and no doubt introduces readers to another amazing world and great cast of characters.  Why stop at three books?  It seems to me that Kaufman and Spooner are really onto something here and I have no doubt that they could write another ten books in the Starbound universe.  Go for it ladies; what the world really needs is more Science Fiction written by women for women!

Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden

**Allen & Unwin provided me with a free review copy for this book.  I have otherwise not been paid for any review or endorsement of this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased view.**

“These Broken Stars” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, Allen & Unwin (2013)

These Broken Stars

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 Merendensen 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 that 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 torturous journey across 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.

These Broken Stars is a timeless love story about hope and survival in the face of unthinkable odds.

It would be easy to dismiss Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s collaboration as simply being a rehashing of Titanic albeit in space.  At first glance this is what I thought I was dealing with and refreshingly I was proved wrong.   Kaufman and Spooner seem to have discovered a new Science Fiction sub-genre and one that may take the genre to an audience that it has previously struggled to connect with.  In doing so, I suspect that they may also have upset many Sci-Fi purists who, on the basis of its strong romantic elements, may disregard the book as a work of fantasy.  I don’t agree with this.  For me, the questions raised by the story place it firmly within the realm of Sci-Fi.  However, the strong feminine perspective will certainly ensure that the story will find an audience amidst the same readers that once gorged themselves on vampires, werewolves and witches.

This hefty book of some 374 pages won’t deter avid YA readers. However, its size will probably place it out of reach for shared classroom study and also beyond the appeal of the more reluctant reader.  It will serve as a great extension book for students in the middle years; particularly for those new to Science Fiction.  The book is expertly crafted and highly engaging, although it does lack the lyrical beauty that would elevate it to the realm of literary fiction.  It is a riveting tale of survival set in a delicious setting that captivates the mind.  I couldn’t put it down!

Despite being part of a trilogy, These Broken Stars works well as a stand-alone novel.  Kaufman and Spooner avoided the temptation of employing the cliffhanger ending.  Instead, they rely upon the strength of their characters and world as being enough to tempt audience back to seek out the next installment.

Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden

**Allen & Unwin provided me with a  free review copy of this book.  I have otherwise not been paid or rewarded for a any review or endorsement of this book and the above opinions reflect my unbiased view.**

Tag Cloud