Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends–and planet–behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship. Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed’s scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.
Someone tried to murder her.
Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed’s 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest’s rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead. Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship’s cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.
This book was, quite literally, out of this world! Get it? Cause… it’s set in outer space? Ugh, I’m so sorry, I need to stop including so many terrible puns in my books reviews.
Getting back to the point, Across the Universe was a great read, but not in the way I thought it would be.
You see, I came into this book expecting something totally different from what I got, and for once, I’m okay with that. I’m ashamed to admit that my initial impression of Across the Universe was mostly an unfortunate case of me judging a book by its cover… The cover of this book is steamy, romantic, and truly sigh-worthy, with two lovers’ silhouettes face to face in front of a breathtaking display of beautiful, glittering stars. This picturesquely intimate scene gave me the impression that this would be a galactic love story, but Across the Universe is so much more than that. Sure, the book has a romantic element to it, but it should by no means be classified as a romance novel. It’s packed with constant action, suspense, mystery, and thought-provoking ideas about humanity. I think this is why the publishers decided to change the book’s cover soon after it came out and gained popularity.
The original cover just doesn’t capture the true essence of the story, which is why I’m glad it was updated to something more science fiction-y. After all, Across the Universe is far more sci-fi/mystery than it is romance.
Phew. Now that that’s cleared up, let’s talk about the actual story itself… which was amazing!
The plot is driven by constant action, and endless twists and turns are thrown our way. As readers, we can feel how high the stakes are for our two main characters, which is what really kept me turning the pages.
Speaking of our two main characters, let’s talk about them! I loved how they both acted like ACTUAL sixteen year olds. All the time in YA we see teenage protagonists who literally act and think like full grown adults (looking at you, John Green). It’s nice to have wise and mature characters, but characters who act their age are much more realistic and easy to connect with. Plus, most teenagers aren’t all that philosophical and “wise beyond their years”.
Across the Universe tells the story of two lead protagonists, Amy and Elder. I enjoyed Amy’s character a lot. She was snarky, sarcastic, and spirited, but she had a vulnerable side to her as well. I love seeing characters that aren’t unrealistically tough, because after all, weaknesses and vulnerability are what make us human.
Another thing that I really appreciated about Amy is that she didn’t immediately get all starry-eyed over Elder right when she met him. In fact, she didn’t even feel any strong romantic feelings towards him until the end of the book. For a large part of the story, she viewed him as a stranger, potential suspect for murder, and oftentimes just a plain annoyance. In regards to Amy and Elder’s relationship, I think that this was a great approach for Beth Revis to take. Not all couples experience love at first sight, or even friendship at first sight. Relationships are bumpy, complex, and difficult, and it’s important for that to be discussed more in the YA community.
I like that Amy didn’t back down from pointing out Elder’s blind ignorance to him when it came to the complexity of humanity, and I’m glad that she didn’t let him treat her like some brainless doll. Because that’s the thing… Elder wasn’t nearly as likable as Amy. He definitely wasn’t the worst character ever, but you can’t deny that he radiates a great deal of toxic masculinity. I feel like he would have tried harder to be dominate in his relationship with Amy if she weren’t such a free spirit. He seemed to take pleasure in her moments of vulnerability, and that made me feel very uncomfortable. He read off as extremely possessive at times, but I’m glad that Amy always put him in his place. I also like how Amy was a year older than him, because 1.) we never see that in YA, and 2.) it made Elder seem more like a childish three year old throwing a tantrum than a controlling boyfriend bossing around his girlfriend. I think Elder was simply immature and not necessarily entitled, if that makes sense. Plus, there are far, FAR worse male love interests out there.
I thought it was interesting how Elder and Amy’s perspectives of the world were so different, and I loved seeing the tremendous growth they both went through by sharing their experiences with one another. At the beginning of the book, Elder started out as very brainwashed and ignorant, but as the story progressed, he became more thoughtful as he gained valuable knowledge and learned to think for himself.
Remember how I mentioned that I thought that this was going to be a galactic love story? Well, ironically enough, the romance was the thing I liked least about this book. I’m glad that it wasn’t exactly insta-love, but it still felt bland and underdeveloped. I’m a firm believer that two characters can’t form a strong romantic bond in under 100 pages (and even that’s stretching it), but Amy and Elder are smooching only 50 pages after meeting each other. Ughhhh. To be fair, their relationship builds and develops throughout the book, and I’m sure that it will continue to do so in the next two installments in the trilogy. But still, I’m somewhat indifferent about the two of them as a couple.
Other than typical weird sci-fi cursing (“Frex!”, “Chutz!”), there’s really nothing else about this book that I can complain about. It wasn’t what I expected it to be, but I’m not upset about that! If you enjoyed These Broken Stars or Aurora Rising, this is definitely the book for you.
Across the Universe is a very promising start to what I’m sure will end up being a wonderful sci-fi trilogy!