|Review: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis|
Young Adult books are not my usual reading fare, but when a copy of Beth Revis’s stunning debut novel was handed to me, I did not set it down until I had read every word.
The first chapter took my breath away.
Science Fiction is my favorite genre, and one in which Across the Universe excels. Yet Revis does not limit herself to writing straightforward Sci-Fi. This first book of a trilogy also contains elements of suspense and action in the forms of a murder mystery, medical drama, speculative science, a classic fish-out-of-water plot, and a hint of forbidden-yet-fairytale romance. Blending these into a compelling novel is quite an achievement in storytelling.
One of the best themes in this book is the author’s take on the classic hero’s tale. Her protagonist is Amy, a young woman not yet out of her teens. Faced with the most extraordinary circumstances, she rises not only to meet many challenges, but to fight for herself and the greater good. Her relationships are almost exclusively with males, yet it is Amy’s strength of character that shines brightest. She is portrayed as a natural leader (of men) who is not an “amazon woman” archetype.
Her two closest companions are a self-appointed male bodyguard and a young Prince Charming, ascendant to the highest seat of power. By now, you may be thinking that this pair of male protectors will end up saving the “princess” for the happily-ever-after.
You will be disappointed.
It is Amy who pushes the boys into action. She questions, investigates, and boldly intrudes into matters that are not her personal concern. Amy has convictions; she is highly principled. She also harbors fear and resentment, is capable of tantrums and tears, and occasionally reminds the reader that she is, after all, still a teenaged girl. These realistic qualities make Amy more human, and her ability to rebound from vulnerable moments adds to her strength.
There are many nods to the target Young Adult audience in Across the Universe, but that does not in any way detract from its appeal to older readers. This book does not shy away from adult themes such as sexuality, racism, genetic manipulation, power, corruption, deception, and murder. Emotions form a broad spectrum from parental love to horror. There is, literally, something for everyone within the expanse of this story.
If Across the Universe has a fault, it is perhaps the author’s tendency to reiterate certain points. Repetition caused my mind to wander in some chapters, and once or twice, those sections threw me out of the story feeling slightly and briefly bored.
Nevertheless, those moments are rare and very much overshadowed by the overall quality of Revis’s writing and her story’s urgency.
Across the Universe is a flowing, epic novel that left me with so many unanswered questions (and theories of my own) that I have already marked my calendar in anticipation of the release of the second volume, A Million Suns, in January 2012.
I just may peruse the Young Adult section of my bookstore more often.