8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

These Broken StarsTitle: These Broken Stars

Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Romance

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: December 2013
Hardcover: 374 Pages

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.

A timeless love story, THESE BROKEN STARS sets into motion a sweeping science fiction series of companion novels. The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

Stand alone or series: The first part of the Sleepless Series (collected in the full-length novel of the same name in 1993).

How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher (via BEA)

Format (e- or p-): Print ARC

Why did I read this book: I have had this book on my radar for literally over a year. When we were contacted by the authors to host the official cover reveal earlier this year, I was ecstatic – I became even more enthused when I had the chance to meet both writers at BEA this year and got my grubby paws on a copy of this much-coveted ARC. It has been a long, torturous wait until These Broken Stars‘ December release date, but finally, at long last, IT IS TIME. (And dudes. These Broken Stars was worth the wait.)


If there’s one thing Tarver Merendsen knows, it’s that he doesn’t belong with the high society crowd aboard Icarus‘ upper levels. A scholarship case, the son of a teacher and a poet, Tarver enlisted in the army at sixteen years old and quickly made a name for himself as a leader and a soldier. His last great heroic deed earned him the distinguished rank of Major, and an upper deck berth on LaRoux Industries’ flagship starliner, the Icarus. But Tarver has never felt more out-of-place than he does aboard the starship with its sneering aristocrats and their synthesized versions of perfection and beauty – he’d rather be home, with real people.

Lilac LaRoux isn’t just another pretty socialite; she’s the only child of the most powerful man in the galaxy. But, for all of Lilac’s extraordinary riches and beauty, she’s also essentially powerless thanks to her overbearing father. She knows from experience that she must be very careful about her acquaintances and would-be suitors (lest they end up reassigned or dead). The one freedom she is afforded, and that she seizes upon, is the freedom to travel aboard her father’s fleet of spaceships. (True, it’s travel with an armed entourage, but it’s freedom nonetheless.)

Though they are from two very different worlds, Tarver and Lilac’s paths cross and their destinies intertwine aboard the ill-fated Icarus. When a catastrophic accident occurs, violently ripping the ship out of hyperspace, Tarver and Lilac are marooned together on an unknown planet. With little food, no supplies, and precious little information about their whereabouts, the pair make a desperate trek to find other survivors and to send for rescue. Little do Tarver and Lilac know, however, that they are not alone on the surface of this alien world; they must rely on each other if they are to have any hope of survival.

Well, color me happy, folks. The first in a planned trilogy of companion novels, These Broken Stars is all kinds of awesome. As I said above, I’ve been on tenterhooks for this book ever since last year – although I admit I was nervous when I learned that the book was being touted as “Titanic in outer space!” coupled with the poofy ballgown cover (which is very pretty, but also sets off the YA instalove alarm bells in my head). Thankfully, These Broken Stars is NOT a rehash of Jack and Rose’s doomed romance among the stars (nor is it a parade of pretty dresses), but rather a story of survival, of self-discovery and empowerment, and of a sweet, slow-building romance that feels wonderfully genuine (and refreshingly NOT of the instalove variety). I can see where the Titanic comparisons come in – especially in the book’s opening scenes with Tarver’s discomfort at being thrown into the froufrou upper class and Lilac’s haughty heiress routine – but in my mind? These Broken Stars riffs off of one of my favorite shows and favorite ships in all of shipdom: Lost‘s Desmond and Penny. (And I apologize in advance for the non-Lost fans in the audience, because I’m going to nerd out a little hard right now.)

Lost Desmond & Penny

That’s right, Lost. You see, Tarver and Lilac are the sole survivors of a spectacular air crash, and while they think they’re on just another terraformed planet, they start to hear voices (WHISPERS, even!). They start to hallucinate and see ghosts of those that have died, of people and things that cannot possibly be there. Their desert planet is no mere desert planet – there are unfathomable, uncanny forces of energy at work on this very special location, and the planet’s location and unique properties are a secret that a certain corporation will do anything to protect.

Sound familiar yet? Ok, take this setup and then factor the character elements into play. There’s a young soldier, who falls for the most unattainable girl in the galaxy. In turn, she falls for him – but they know they can never be together, not really, because of the girl’s controlling, pernicious father. And despite all that, despite the rifts in time and space, of the barriers between death and life that try to separate the two, they somehow find a way to be together. (JUST LIKE DESMOND AND PENNY IN 4×05 “THE CONSTANT!”) And it is so, so good.

Lost-nerddom moment had, I should say that These Broken Stars is no mere copycat. No, it stands on its own as a damn fine work of survival science fiction, and a damn fine romance to boot. The science fiction elements, starting with the Alcubierre drive vision of hyperspace and culminating with the terraformed nature of the planet on which Tarver and Lilac find themselves, make sense and play nice with the basic rules of physics. This affords plenty of breathing room for the more fantastical elements of the book (the whispers, the “rift,” the transmutation of matter, and the visions of impossible things) – while Lost pushed the envelope a few too many times, These Broken Stars knows just how far to push without breaking the fragile balance of suspended disbelief.

Beyond the worldbuilding aspects, the plotting and writing is both deft and surefooted. These Broken Stars is a survival story just as much as it’s a relationship story, and I loved the treacherous road our dual narrators must tread, physically and emotionally. While Tarver and Lilac might have felt initial physical attraction back on Icarus, when they are stranded together on a dangerous planet with little hope of rescue and basically zero assets, they don’t exactly get along. There’s a lot of fear and missed cues, a generous does of misunderstanding and projection on the parts of both our hero and heroine. Heck, the most compelling thing about this novel, to me, is how these two characters are so stubbornly set against each other at the onset of their dire journey, and gradually discover that they need each other to survive (and, as an extension of that, to be happy).

Which brings me to the true driving force of Theses Broken Stars: the characters. Told in alternating fashion from both Tarver and Lilac’s perspectives (and written, I’m guessing, in the same fashion from the two authors), the narrative works beautifully. And usually, I’m all about the heroines but in the case of These Broken Stars, it is all about Tarver. It is his earnestness and drive that propels the pair along the rough alien terrain, just as it is his anguish that… wait, I’m treading into spoiler-land. Suffice it to say that Tarver’s narrative is the one that won me over. That’s not to say that Lilac was lacking in any way – just the opposite. I loved Lilac’s stubbornness, her protective shell of attitude and anger. Gradually, we see Lilac’s growth into an empowered young woman that takes control of her own life and situation, and it’s a beautiful arc.

On that note, I love that the characters sound and feel like completely distinct characters with different world views and biases, and I’m so very glad that the romance that unfolds between the two characters isn’t sanitized (i.e. there is sex, there’s a scene in the morning when Tarver has to…adjust himself). OH, and did I mention that there’s an unexpected character twist near the end of the book that utterly guts you? But therein lie spoilers.

On the negative side, there are a few things that didn’t quite work for me. The interstitials of the interrogation of Tarver between each chapter, for example, start to get repetitive and feel useless by the end of the book. The aesthetic choice of the Victorian era aboard the Icarus felt completely arbitrary and unnecessary, and there were certain elements introduced on the planet when Tarver and Lilac are stranded that similarly felt unresolved (the wild cat creature at one point?). Similarly, I wish there was a little more actual time spent on the resolution of the mystery behind the planet and its inter-dimensional secret sauce (and the corporation that is trying to hide it)… but there’s plenty of room for that in the next books.

Overall, I really, truly enjoyed this book, and it is absolutely in the running for one of my notable reads of 2013. Absolutely recommended, and I cannot wait for the next two books in the series.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:


Nothing about this room is real. If this were a party at home, the music would draw your eye to human musicians in the corner. Candles and soft lamps would light the room, and the wooden tables would be made of actual trees. People would be listening to each other, instead of checking to see who’s watching them.

Even the air here smells filtered and fake. The candles in the sconces do flicker, but they’re powered by a steady source. Hover trays weave among the guests, like invisible waiters are carrying drinks. The string quartet is only a hologram—perfect and infallible, and exactly the same at every performance.

I’d give anything for a laid-back evening joking around with my platoon, instead of being stuck here in this imitation scene from a historical novel.

For all their trendy Victorian tricks, there’s no hiding where we are. Outside the viewports, the stars are like faded white lines, half-invisible, surreal. The Icarus, passing through dimensional hyperspace, would look just as faded, half-transparent, if someone stationary in the universe could somehow see her moving faster than light.

I’m leaning against the bookshelves when it occurs to me that one thing here is real—the books. I reach behind me and let my fingers trail over the rough leather of their antique spines, then pull one free. Nobody here reads them; the books are for decoration. Chosen for the richness of their leather bindings, not for the contents of their pages. Nobody will miss one, and I need a dose of reality.

You can read the full excerpt online HERE.

Rating: 8 – Excellent

Reading Next: The Killables by Gemma Malley

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  • Kendra
    December 10, 2013 at 1:11 am

    Yay! I’m so glad you liked it! I’ve had high hopes for this book since Wendy Darling’s vague and enthusiastic goodreads post about it 🙂

  • Kailana
    December 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I have been seeing this book around and am very curious. I will have to check it out!

  • Franny
    December 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I’m about halfway through this book (got a digital ARC about a week ago) and am loving it! The characters! Just – the characters!

  • Kritika
    December 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    This book sounds incredible! I really like dystopian novels (everything from Atwood and Orwell to all those YA dystopians) but I’ve been getting a little tired of them lately because they seem very formulaic (the young adult ones, anyway). This one sounds different though – I’m excited.
    I absolutely love Desmond and Penny, and I can’t wait to see how their intergalactic counterparts’ story unfolds!

  • Kaetrin
    December 11, 2013 at 5:05 am

    This book has been on my radar too. So looking forward to reading it.

    I heard that this was a sci-fi homage to Persuasion. Is that incorrect?

    Do you know if the next two books feature Lilac and Tarver or if they have different MCs?

  • Sarah
    December 11, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I read post by the authors on their website that the next books were going to be about different characters but set in the same universe. I’m a little disappointed… I loved the first part of this book so much that I felt cheated by how quickly everything happened later, and how neatly everything weird about the planet was resolved. I wanted more – especially the survival and exploration stuff. Why couldn’t they be stuck on the planet longer?

    Much as I loved the book, I think the cover totally misrepresents it. This was sitting in the new book section in my library for ages, and I studiously avoided it as the cover screams ‘paranormal insta-love!’ Then my dad started to rave about this fantastic SF book he was reading and I finally, thankfully, gave it a shot. This is the best YA romantic relationship I have read in ages. And they actually have sex – yay! Very refreshing after reading Allegiant with its PG-rated belt-loop/collarbone fetishes.

  • Kendra
    December 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    @Kaetrin, that’s For Darkness Shows the Stars that you’re thinking of

  • Kaetrin
    December 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    @Kendra – thx. I shall adjust my expectations accordingly! 🙂

  • Thea
    December 12, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Late to the party! Thanks for the comments everyone 🙂

    Kendra – Hah, it’s funny, Wendy Darling’s original post on goodreads is what really got me salivating for this title. It was TORTURE having this one on the TBR but refraining from reading it for months. Literally months. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Kailana – Huzzah! Hope you like it!

    Franny – YES, Tarver and Lilac are so very well written. I loved them both so much.

    Kritika – I totally understand where you are coming from. I love dystopias with a passion but I’ve definitely been disenchanted with some of the big name YA franchises that have come out over the past few years. I think you’ll like These Broken Stars, which isn’t a dystopia in the purest sense, but certainly has survivalist and dystopian elements. It’s certainly different and not at all what you might expect based on the cover and the marketing blurb. I can’t wait to see what you think!

    Kaetrin – RE: Persuasion, not to my knowledge! What Kendra said — that’s FDStS 🙂 And yes, I also read that each of the three books will feature different main characters but be set in the same universe and I imagine face the same corporation pulling all the strings.

    Sarah – I 100% agree. The ending felt very rushed and I desperately wanted MORE explanation about the planet/the interdimensional rift/the energies involved. But… I’m hoping that will be explored at length in the next 2 books? And I also agree and had your same reaction to the cover. It does look very paranormal instalove romance, but I’m so happy the book was NOT that.

    (AND HAH! YES! Divergent’s collarbone-burning-kisses. Come on now.)

  • Jane
    December 16, 2013 at 2:03 am

    I feel awfully sad that I’m not as blown away by this book as everyone is. I just found it so awfully slow. Then again not all book are for everyone right? http://www.thebooksmugglers.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_sad.gif

  • Skimmy
    April 4, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Nice Review! I thought the book was decent in my opinion.

  • These Broken Stars - YA Sci-Fi Book Reviews - HeadOverTales.com
    August 16, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    […] Smugglers, because it is from that site and its really good, in-depth reviews that I learned about These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman. The book is sometimes called “Titanic in space” because the crash of a giant spaceship […]

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