Starglass by Phoebe North
Published: July 23rd 2013 by Simon and Schuster
Source: ARC from publisher
Synopsis (Goodreads): Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a job that doesn’t interest her, and living with a grieving father who only notices her when he’s yelling, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she’s got.
But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain’s guard murdering an innocent man, Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath her ship’s idyllic surface. As she’s drawn into a secret rebellion determined to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares most about. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the decision of a lifetime–one that will determine the fate of her people.
My thoughts: Sometimes the hardest books to review are the ones that are just okay. They aren’t great, but they aren’t terrible. They prompt little to no reaction.
For me, Starglass by Phoebe North is one of those books.
I have enjoyed many posts on North’s blog, and was especially intrigued by the synopsis she wrote for it in a “review” on Goodreads. I’d also had it on my radar since Lenore Applehans posted about it back in February. I’ve been itching for a great sci-fi YA set in space for a while, so I was really looking forward to it.
It wasn’t exactly disappointing, but it was a bit underwhelming.
What I really admired about Starglass was the world-building. North was all about telling rather than showing. The details of why this community existed on a spaceship, where they were heading, and the nature of their social order were revealed slowly through the narrative rather than being explained up front, which I definitely appreciated. The Jewish cultural references and language were a refreshing twist and not something often encountered, particularly in genre fiction. Because there is so much normal, everyday life on Asherah, it won’t overwhelm readers who aren’t looking for heavy sci-fi.
I do think Terra is an authentic teenage character. Her relationship with her family, her best friend, and particularly her desire for a romantic partner and physical intimacy seemed very true-to-life. She is torn between loyalties and struggles to even know what the right thing is, let alone do the right thing. I love that she didn’t have all the answers, that she was a bit reckless, that she was sometimes selfish and sometimes just wanted to do teenage things, like kiss. She’s definitely not making my list of favorite kick-ass YA heroines, but I think that’s okay. I don’t think every protagonist needs to be cut from the same cloth, and a perfect heroine is impossible to relate to.
Perhaps my favorite character was Terra’s father. After losing his wife, he becomes a sullen drunk obsessed with duty. I was particularly fascinated with his job as clockkeeper, which wasn’t just about measuring time, but also changing the seasons and the length of days to adapt the humans for a non-Earth environment. He wasn’t a likeable character, by any means, but he was the most interesting.
Unfortunately, I never connected with any of the other characters. They didn’t feel real to me, and possibly because Terra wasn’t close to any of them, I didn’t feel much for them or get know them well.
My biggest complaint about Starglass involves the plotting. It meanders; there’s wasn’t much to propel the reader forward. A clear enemy never emerges; Terra distrusts everyone equally.
I was primed for an exciting, political struggle with theoretical underpinnings. As a recovering Political Science major, I love a good study in authority and revolutions, but Starglass never delivered in this respect. There’s lots of talk of an underground movement, but this aspect of the story never gains traction.
Readers who are accustomed to a swoon-worthy love interest will find Starglass disappointing. Terra’s long-time crush is a selfish moron, so even when she becomes his intended, it isn’t exciting. No, Terra dreams of her destined love, knowing it isn’t Silvan, the new Captain in training (even if she does enjoy making out with him). Readers will only get a tiny glimpse at what these prophetic dreams mean, and it’s rather disorienting and not at all a fun twist or exciting cliffhanger.
Which brings me to the crux of the issue: Starglass is going to be a series, but I feel that the events that take place in this first installment could have been easily condensed and the book would have benefited from the tighter plotting.
Ultimately, Starglass is a forgettable young adult science fiction novel. There were no action-packed scenes or heart-pounding moments. The prose was decent, but I ended up only highlighting one line in the entire novel, and it was a long book. I’m sure it will find its fans, but it isn’t a book I’m able to champion.
Publisher’s Weekly: “This richly textured first novel deserves to be widely read.”
Ink Scratchers: “…though it was fun and interesting, it wasn’t particularly gripping. The twists were inevitable and anybody who is well read in YA-sci-fi-dystopian-rebel novels can see a lot of what is going to happen way in advance. I guess it all comes down to the fact that Starglass just doesn’t shine – it isn’t all that different from a lot of what is out there.”
Respiring Thoughts: “Starglass was a majorly disappointing read. I was excited for a novel about spaceships and conspiracies, similar to Across the Universe. Instead I got an aimless plot and a weak heroine. Very, very unfortunate novel, in my opinion.”