The Sound of Stars (Book Review)
by Alechia Dow (YA, science fiction)
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
I have trouble reviewing YA – like being a teenager, it’s a strange in-between zone. You don’t need to be kid-friendly, but the genre also tends to dull certain aspects of adult life (sex and violence) if the novel isn’t dealing with a specific trauma.
That being said, my real rating is 3.5 stars (versus the 3 of the GR/NG system).
The diversity in the novel was fantastic – I loved that the female protagonist was a young woman of colour that wasn’t conventionally attractive, and she has a medical disability. This is important for young people to see and it didn’t feel forced. I loved the non-binary characters and the way the pronoun “they” was used without the need for some sort of unnecessary explanation. The novel’s attempts to bring in social justice concerns fell a little flat - they didn’t get enough focus to fully resonate.
One thing that was interesting to me upon reflection was Ellie’s sexuality. As someone who also wasn’t interested in sex or dating at 17 (having too many other things on the go even without living in a dystopian atmosphere), her lack of interest in sex (and her struggling to understand why she wasn’t as sexually active as her friend) was relatable.
Do alien + human love stories have to make the aliens look exactly like humans (but hotter) for the human to fall for them? Give me an ugly alien love story! Yet, the reason for Morris looking human is valid because they need to live in our atmosphere and etc., but it would have been more interesting if he was less conventionally attractive. And if he weren’t so … boring. I found him rather dull.
The love story wasn’t very exciting either, unfortunately, and took up too much time. I did like the slow burn romance aspect, but there was too much nattering on about love. Yes, this is a YA story, so I don’t expect some bodice-ripping, but maybe replace the long monologues about love with showing us why they are a good match. Perhaps the issue was that I found Ellie a little boring and Morris pedantic and too perfect. Other than their shared bravery (in different forms) and love of books/music and I didn’t see a lot that drew them together in terms of loving of another. Sexual tension and desire, sure, but the “falling in love” felt rushed (then again, they are teenagers – or at least she is). Once they establish their friendship, they don’t really argue, and they never flirt (possibly because they’re so young and inexperienced). Yet even when there’s a big misdirection in their relationship, it’s resolved so quickly we don’t see any growth on their part.
I wish the “road trip” had been drawn out and included some more instances of “fun” for them, where they got to be playful and relax around one another – this would have allowed their relationship to develop stronger. This book, despite them driving across the country, didn’t feel like a road trip novel at all.
I did enjoy the concept of the alien invasion (though I think resistance on humanity’s part would be a bit stronger in real life) and I enjoyed the hierarchy within the alien culture.
The little epigraphs to start the chapters didn’t do a lot for me and I skimmed the parts dealing with the fictional band. While I, being 34, know Bowie’s music, would someone born in 2003 know it as much? I’m not sure. My brother is 15 – maybe I’ll ask him. He’ll likely just tell me I’m old or something.
Overall, it’s a rich novel that attempts to broach large social themes as well as providing an interesting story. Would I recommend it to my daughter in 12 years or so? Sure.