Only once in a while, does a book shave a few decades off my aged brain and cause me to run around screaming like a teenager, out of my mind obsessed. I tell everyone about it, down to the random lady counting her coupons in front of me at Market Basket. Really – I did, though she eyed me warily, debating whether to taser my weird butt.
I tell the kids on the bus, the bookstore I bought it from, other story-freaks like myself, but most of all, I tell other novelists. Because, quite frankly, this blew me away as a writer. I understood what Spooner and Kaufman did in THESE BROKEN STARS, and it left me awed. It was like being at a concert, listening to a band that people rarely listen to, but everyone is screaming at their greatness because you know, KNOW, this crazy band is about to skyrocket.
To me, Spooner and Kaufman broke the rules of most YA tales out there, writing the book almost like a film, and I ADORED it. More importantly, they didn’t put angst in there for the sake of angst. The leads, Lilac and Traver, had reactions and emotions that FIT – not overblown, not excessive, just 100% real. Plus, the authors scared the crap out of me with the whispering voices-in-the-night thing. Jeeze, I’m a wimp I know, but stuff like that FREAKS ME OUT. Loved it – pure, skin crawling torture, like JAWS – show just a little, nothing crazy, but how it is presented sends chills through your body.
Brilliant – BRILLIANT – was the idea to interlace the lead boy’s interrogation (a jump forward) with the storyline of what had happened. Dear god almighty – it was a stroke of genius. It is how the entire story kicks off – seven lines, between an unknown interrogator and a young, decorated war hero named Traver and his mention of lead girl, Lilac LaRoux:
“When did you first meet Miss LaRoux?”
“Three days before the accident.”
“And how did that come about?”
“Meeting Miss LaRoux.”
“How could it possibly matter?”
“Major, everything matters.”
I read those lines and knew, KNEW I was about to enter one hell of a story. As a writer, the killer way THESE BROKEN STARS opens with just seven lines that say so much, literally made me hold my breath. I read the page several times, and thought to myself, “This, THIS is how storytellers find greatness.”
Maybe it’s because I am a novelist and professional writer, but that single page caused a devious grin to spread on my face, and I tuned out the world until I hit the last line of the book.
The story was insane – loved every unique little plot point, every sway of the tall grass in the plains, every smoking detail of a space liner as it plummets to its death on an unknown planet. I lived inside the world that Spooner and Kaufman created, tearing through the book in a day – yes, A DAY and it was a work day, so I read like a druggie needing a hit. It’s a world that haunts me still . . .
I can’t even describe the entire story, but someone called it “Titanic in Space,” but that’s not accurate. No this story is a brand new world – a new vision of greed and sacrifice and what it is to really exist. If anything, it is the TV show LOST, but set on an abandoned planet with only two people who make it off the “jet” alive.
The silence that encompasses the two survivors of the space liner, Icarus, is chilling. Haunting. The characters themselves are opposites on the social spectrum – there is Lilac, heiress to empire of wealth and controlled by her powerful father. She is a bit of a rebel herself, but is surrounded all the time by those who seek to bend her life the way her father demands.
Then there is Traver, a young and decorated war hero. He is also aboard the Icarus, dragged there by a media-frenzie surrounding his story – a boy from nothing who becomes the pinnacle of heroism. He hates it and just wanted to go back to his simple life.
But then something terrible happens to the Icarus, and it plummets with all 50,000 souls aboard. Traver and Lilac, thrown together among the chaos of stampeding passengers, find their way to a mechanic’s escape pod and manage to crash on a planet, surviving the impact.
I love how Kaufman and Spooner paint the world they land on and the desolation of apparently being the ONLY people on the planet. I love how the authors portray the bits and pieces of violence that had rained from the sky when the Icarus fell, and how Traver tries to hide it all from Lilac . . . though she is no fool.
But it is the apparent descent into madness by Lilac, and how Traver tries to handle it, that is fabulous. And Lilac evolves into who she truly is on the inside as that spark that was so completely snuffed by her father, begins to ignite.
But the ending . . . Oh man.
While unmissable by readers, THESE BROKEN STARS will be unforgettable if you are a writer. Do yourself a favor and tune out the world for a day and just become LOST with Traver and Lilac.
Simply unforgettable . . .