Outside of my classic challenge, I don't normally do book reviews here, but this week I came across one of those rare books that just boiled my blood. In trying to write a review(on a book that I skim-read after 35%!) I found that I had so many issues with the story, the review was too long.
As a rule, I write long reviews. I can't help it. But this one was ridiculously long. I tried rewriting it, but that was also long. But I did want to share my thoughts because this is a book that's gotten loads of high ratings and positive reviews. In retrospect the top-rated positive reviews weren't really more than "OH. MY. GOSH. I LURVES THIS!! MORE LILAC AND TARVER PLZ!! Heart, heart, love forever!!!" Which is fine, but it doesn't really tell me WHY someone liked the book. The top-rated negative reviews were much more detailed as to what the problems were. But I don't think it's easy to fully convey how bad something like "The MMC couldn't stop talking about how beautiful the FMC is" can be. Because there's not a scale for that!
So in all of it's ranty glory, here's my review for sci-fi romance YA novel These Broken Stars which has been labeled "Titanic in space with star-crossed lovers."
It’s been awhile since I hated a book this much. I mean, I really, really, really HATE this book. I only read this far for two reasons: I wanted more content to add to my list of dislikes and the plot itself(crash landing/survival/strange planet) was interesting. But when I’m reading a book that only has two characters and I hate both of them, there’s only so much I can stand.
The cover is beautiful, the blurb enticing. I was so excited to read this, had such high hopes. Within the first chapter my heart was already sinking. It started off well enough, the writing is strong and the setting was so interesting, but then the MMC meets the FMC.
“Her fair, flaweless skin says she’s one of them, but her gaze says she’s better, above, untouchable.
She’s wearing the same hue as a navy dress uniform, bare shoulders holding my gaze for a moment—she sure as hell wears the color better than any sailor I know. Hair: red, falling down past her shoulders. Nose: a little snub, but that makes her more pretty, not less. It makes her real.
Pretty’s not the right word. She’s a knockout.”
So begins Tarver’s long obsession with how Lilac looks. I kid you not, there’s not a single pov chapter from him where he doesn’t find a way to talk about how gorgeous she is despite injuries and dirt.
Lilac then attracts him to her table(by dropping a glove) and they have a conversation. Tarver doesn’t know she’s a LeRoux and therefore untouchable. Lilac has a pleasant conversation with him, but afterwards her “best friend” warn her that if she ever talks to him again she’ll tell her father and bad things will happen. (we later learn that Lilac’s father finds a way to permanently “remove” any boy problems.)
Next encounter Lilac brushes him off nastily to “save him.” Despite this when the ship starts experiencing problems, Tarver risks his life to jump over a railing and rescue her, then follows her to a pod which is the only one to escape a ship.
All of this tech and no one thought to have a manual release on the pods in case of the power going out? 50k people and not one of them reached their pod in time to release it before the power went out? And the ship is getting dragged out of hyperspace because it’s too close to a planet and gravity is pulling it.
These people have the knowledge to terraform planets, build spaceships, access hyperspace, but no one thought of a way to navigate around planets and avoid this problem? Shouldn’t the ship being going so fast that gravity wouldn’t have a chance to catch hold of it?
Suspended my disbelief and continued. We get into the pod and Lilac decides to hotwire the pod to release them. Now . . . get this, she goes “I don’t have wire cutters so I’ll just use my fingernails.” In what world ever were fingernails a good substitute for wire cutters? She does indeed cut and split these wires with her fingernails. I want to know what her fingernails are made of . . .
Now we get to the meat of the issue, because as I said, the plot itself was interesting. I love survival stories.
I read YA fiction for several reasons, one is there’s certain things I DON’T want to read about. During the evacuation, Tarver take the time to remark that normally he’d love the sight of all the women pouring out of their chambers in their pajamas. Now, you don’t comment on something unless you notice. He’s commenting, so he’s noticing. I expect most of these women are adults and Tarver is 18 with Lilac at 16. He’s technically an adult, but it still gave me the creeps. If I ever have to quickly evacuate a place and don’t have time to get dressed, I’d rather not think about the barely adult boys checking me out. Yuck. Like, there’s other stuff going on dude, focus.
They get in the pod and Lilac passes out. Tarver mentions how he has to struggle not to peek down her tempting dress. Come on! World is ending, person’s knocked out, and all Tarver can think about is a little fellow down south.
This doesn’t improve as (later in the book) Tarver discusses having a boner after cuddling with Lilac for warmth and later having sex(not graphic) with her.
He also alternates between being frustrated with her(understandable) and admiring her. Now, there is NOTHING to admire about Lilac. Tarver will go, “Oh, Lilac is so brave and determined.” And he’s referring to the fact that despite him being a soldier and her being a debutante with no practical skills and wearing high heels which she doesn’t have the commonsense to remove even after they get stuck multiple times in the metal grate floor of the pod, she still insists on traveling with him to a lookout spot. He says, stay here, I’ll be back. She refuses, and follows, making a simple scouting mission take way longer than it should’ve, demanding breaks, and get this, they stop for a break and she looks around, “Where will I sit?” Because of course princess can’t sit on just anything. Tarver lays out his jacket on a log for her . . .They barely make it back before nightfall when who knows what comes out. And she’s what? No, Lilac is stupid and selfish and prissy.
Lilac says early on that she’s so glad Tarver was attracted to her for her and not her wealth, when the reality is he was attracted to her ravishing beauty of which we’ll hear no end of. Sorry, being wanted for your looks isn’t a step up from being wanted for your money.
Once they leave the mother ship, I stopped having any hope of liking Lilac. She’s so nasty and insulting. She claims it’s because of her father, but this is the girl we have to remember ends up having sex with Tarver and cuddling with him and making out with him. They’re not stuck there long enough for her to go through such a switch. And he shows no outward sign of liking her, so she had no reason to assume more insults were needed.
And she’s wearing these RIDICULOUS shoes. High heels that get stuck in the metal grate floor of the pod. Now you think one of those two bozos would’ve tossed those shoes. Oh no, instead Lilac spends several days walking around with them. Her feet get really messed up and the solution is bandage them and then put the dumb shoes back on, but oh, we snapped off the heels. It’s at that point I looked up a picture of high heeled shoes and tried to imagine someone snapping off the heels and walking in them. THROW THEM AWAY ALREADY! Walk barefoot, walk with bandaged feet, I don’t care just please, give up on the shoes!
The first night she hogs the blankets, wants Tarver to sleep outside, etc. Every time Tarver is out of sight she freaks out that she’s pushed him too far with the nasty angle. Then he comes back and she’s right back to being a witch.
But oh, she’d “rather he remembered her as a bitch than weak.” Really? Well you’re now both, but don’t worry, Tarver’s so gobsmacked by your looks he doesn’t care.
The entire trip is full of Lilac being stupid. She’s a hazard. I would’ve left her to be eaten. All she does is whine, and complain, and argue, and insult. She has zero skills and isn’t even a pleasant person worth saving. If she hadn’t been stunning, Tarver probably would’ve left her, but it’s all good because eventually he gets laid.
Lilac trips over a stick and doesn’t bother to try and stop herself and lets herself fall flat on her face, but 3 paragraphs later she’s “determined not to give him the satisfaction of pitying me. I’ll show him how much a LaRoux can handle.” Oh yeah, you in your princess dress and high heels, neither of which she’ll ditch and her getting a break every 15 minutes, walking dreadfully slow, and falling on her face is soooo not pitiable.
Here’s one of my “favorite” parts.
“I’m sitting in a patch of afternoon sun on one of the blankets, spread over the nasty forest floor. Not that it matters all that much, as I’m already carrying half of the forest along with me in my dress. [They have a mechanic suit she could be wearing] The hem is in tatters and the skirt is muddy. I can only imagine my hair and skin are as dreadful [Oh, poor baby!] . . . I must try and bear it as best I can.”
I mean, come on! Why does this book have so many high ratings?
Then Tarver comes back and wants her to get off the blanket so they can get going. She gets up, allows him to pack it(I swear she hasn’t done anything this whole trip, not even dedicated her ruined dress for firestarting) and then says that he left her standing awkwardly with her arms wrapped around herself against the chill. Oh gosh, I’m so sorry his packing up your blanket and carrying it because you HAVE to keep moving is so inconvenient.
Now I made it about 35% of the way through but honestly, you can’t have your MC’s be that annoying for that long when they’re the only characters. I skimmed the rest and read the last chapter (which is like . . . what happened?).
I planned on going back to where I left off and slowly going through the rest, but was greeted by this on the first page “If I’ve learned anything about Lilac it’s that she doesn’t like to fall apart in front of people.” . . . oh yes, Lilac OBVIOUSLY hates to fall apart in front of people. Because that’s not at all what she’s been doing the entire freaking trip.
But good ole Tarver has to keep being moonstruck over her. I feel like the authors were using Tarver’s pov to try and get me to like Lilac, but nothing Lilac said, thought, or did was likable.
I get that people have different tastes, but why oh why did so many people like this? All I can say is if Tarver's only qualification for a girlfriend is looks, then it's good that's all he got. The two of them deserve each other.
I wish this book had been a light/no romance book with two likable characters. I could've overlooked the plot stuff and the fact that only 2 people out of 50k survived(please, the odds on that?). And all but pretty much 3 chapters of this book take place on the planet that's a fairly typical Earth wilderness. Not much sci-fi going on or "Titanic".
So yes, I hated this book and I'm happy to not waste anymore time on it.