August 31, 2014

Review: These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By far, my favorite POV is first person. I like being able to go into a character's head and see the story from the inside out. Not that a tight third-person can't do the same thing, but my preference is first. I like watching a character grow, and hear his/her voice voice distinct in my head, until, if it's done right, I can recognize that character from a few paragraphs, whether or not I know said paragraphs are from a specific book.

Where first-person becomes a challenge is when there is more than one viewpoint character. The author must create a distinctive voice, rhythm and cadence for each character. I've read first-person POVs where the characters are so similar that if you as a reader weren't paying attention to the chapter headings, you wouldn't know which character is speaking. (One such book I read had the male protagonist's chapters in a cutesy gold font. Since the male lead sounded identical to the female, this soon became an irritating distraction.) The solution to this as a writer is to really break down and get to know your characters, so when your brain slips into that writing flow, each one springs forth from your fingers with a distinct voice that cannot be mistaken for the other person.

These Broken Stars accomplishes this feat in spades. The two main characters, Lilac and Tarver, are fully-fleshed and immediately recognizable from the get-go. Besides making for two wonderful protagonists, this is necessary due to the fact that these characters are front and center throughout four-fifths of the book, with no supporting cast. Just these two stubborn, flawed kids, starting out as poor-little-rich-girl/unexpected-war-hero antagonists, thrown into a terrible situation, overcoming impossible obstacles, bickering, struggling, learning about each other, falling in love, and, in Lilac's case, dying and being brought back to life.

This probably sounds like a teetotal mess. It isn't. It's one of the best books I've read this year. It's a science-fiction thriller, planetary mystery, sweet and realistic romance, young-adult coming of age, alien contact story that's unique and wonderful. I had a couple of minor plot quibbles, but nothing big enough to distract me from a great story and characters. I checked this out from the library, but rest assured I will buy it as well. That's the highest compliment I can give a book, that even after I've read it I still want a copy to keep around.

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