Review: Beth Revis – Across the Universe

It’s my own fault, really. I have had a good run with YA novels lately and I thought my streak of bad luck was over. But this was such a huge fail that I suppose I’ll stick to writers of young adult literature that I already know and respect. Or maybe I shouldn’t listen to people who recommend every book they read. This makes me particularly sad because it begins really well, only to throw all its potential out the airlock…

across the universeACROSS THE UNIVERSE
by Beth Revis

Published by: Razorbill, 2011
ISBN: 1595144544
Paperback: 398 pages
Series: Across the Universe #1

My rating: 3/10

First sentence: Daddy said, “Let Mom go first.”

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone – one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship – tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

dividerI will sum this up quickly: Great set-up, lousy story. The premise offers and promises an exploration of themes that just weren’t delivered.  Amy wakes up too early from cryogenic sleep, finds herself all alone in a strange society on the ship Godspeed and has to deal with the consequences of not being able to be frozen again. But the author opted for a crime/mystery story and an incredibly silly romance. There are several problems with that. As for the mysteries that keep the society on the Godspeed docile, it is blatantly obvious from the beginning. The villain can be spotted miles away. And the romance really isn’t one.

Across the Universe suffers from a severe case of insta-love. Amy’s entire life has been turned on its head –  by going into cryogenic sleep and leaving Earth in the first place, and then once again by waking up early and violently – and two minutes after being faced with a completely new environment, an almost alien culture, and the knowledge that she may only see her parents again when she is older than them, the one thing that she thinks about is the boy she saw for ten seconds! I cannot root for a “heroine” who is so dumb.

Elder, at least, has seen Amy twice before thinking about her constantly. And she looks so strange to him that I find his reaction much more believable. To Amy, though, all these people are simply strangers, one of which is Elder who happens to be her age. Other than that, I see no reason why, ten pages after seeing him for a minute, she should already miss him! Even without that “romance”, Amy isn’t among the brightest people. Which makes her perfect for Elder who is surprisingly dense. As I said, the solution to the “mystery” is obvious from miles away, yet our protagonists take the entire novel to figure it out – and even then, they have to be told.

The writing is okay, but not great. There are logical mistakes, flaws in the world-building, and even sentences that you have to read twice to understand.

quotes greyI am empty inside, frozen like before, and I see nothing, and I feel nothing, but that’s not true. Because as soon as I think that, I feel again, I feel everything, and I can’t see, I can’t breathe, but I do feel.

Amy, who has been a runner her entire life, who even trained for a marathon, is outrun by  a group of men who have been born and grown up in a space ship! Elder sometimes understands and reacts to references he shouldn’t really get, having been born on the Godspeed. I did like that the sheep-like behavior of the population is explained (and believably so) – and there was something that would qualify as a twist at the end. But at that point, I already didn’t care about any of the characters, I couldn’t find a plot in all the clunky writing and none of the ideas or themes were properly explored.

This book clearly tries to raise the issue of being different. Looking different, coming from a different place, living by different moral and social standards – but instead of showing us a good rolemodel, Beth Revis smashes us across the head with her message. Hating others because they’re different = bad! Thanks for the lesson. If it had come wrapped in a good story and with characters who show some depth to them, I would have been all for it. But if I want a lecture, I don’t pick up a book that is sold as a YA science fiction romance. None of the promises from the blurb were kept.

At least that’s one more YA series I won’t have to read and another writer I can cross of my list of interests.

THE GOOD: A great and gripping beginning, some nice ideas, the writing is acceptable.
THE BAD: Stupid, flat characters, not much plot to speak of, insta-love and wasted potential, plus badly-concealed lectures on racism.
THE VERDICT: If you don’t mind any of the negatives mentioned above, I guess this could be a nice popcorn-book. There is no substance to it, there was no romance and personally, I can only recommend the first chapter.

RATING: 3/10  Bad

I look forward to your comments. 🙂

dividerAcross the Universe

  1. Across the Universe
  2. A Million Suns
  3. Shades of Earth