Monday, 29 August 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

First published in Great Britain in: 2011
By: Razorbill

Amy has left the life she loves for a world 300 years away.

Trapped in space and frozen in time, Amy is bound for a new planet. But fifty years before she's due to arrive, she is violently woken, the victim of an attempted murder. Now Amy's lost on board and nothing makes sense - she's never felt so alone.

Yet someone is waiting for her. He wants to protect her; and more if she'll let him. 

But who can she trust amidst the secrets and lies? A killer is out there - and Amy has nowhere to hide . . .

My review:

I've been waiting for months to truly fall in love with a 2011 YA book. Now, I've liked many of the debuts this year, but when I finished reading Across the Universe, I wanted to flip back to the first page and read it all over again. Out of all the new series this year, this is the one for me; the one I'm going to obsess and fangirl over.

I should admit right away that I love sci-fi, so any story that contained space ships travelling to the future was going to be a win for me. But Across the Universe has something for everyone - it mixes sci-fi, dystopia, murder mystery, with a dash of teen drama and romance.

Amy is cryogenically frozen alongside her parents and sent on a spaceship bound for a new planet, on a journey that is due to take 300 years. 250 years into the future, Elder is one of the new generations of people born aboard the ship, who know no other world beyond the ship's walls. Elder has a special role in this society; he will one day take over from the current leader, Eldest and be the one to lead the people.

The story is told in alternating POVs from Amy and Elder, like Sam and Grace in Shiver. Amy's POV is a wonder to read at the start of the novel, as the experience of being frozen is detailed and it sounds - how can I put this? Horrific. The actual process is immensely painful and Beth Revis' writing makes you feel everything alongside Amy as she watches both her parents endure this, knowing that she is next. Then, it seems like once Amy is frozen and boxed away, she is actually conscious. Conscious, while trapped in a box, for hundreds of years. To say she immediately won my sympathy as a character is an understatement.

But who I really loved was Elder. Elder is a real boy, not an impossibly perfect YA dreamboat. He's clueless sometimes, he screws up, he can be immature...He does fall in insta-love with Amy, but it's totally understandable as she is the only girl his own age he's ever met and she is completely different to all the people he knows. And the feeling's not mutual; when Amy is woken prematurely, she is shocked and scared and he has to work to make her trust him.

Amy has good reason to be scared. Someone unplugged her and left her to drown in the melted ice. She is saved, but it keeps happening to the other 'frozens' and she has to work out who is trying to kill them and why. She also has to adjust to life on the ship and it is - how can I put this? Horrifying.

What impressed me most about Across the Universe is that it was a true dystopia. Many YA dystopian stories are war stories - in that, it's obvious from the beginning that the world doesn't work and we're supposed to root for the main character to overthrow it. What's great about Across the Universe is that Amy discovers things bit-by-bit, so at first we're presented with a successful community and then we slowly see through Amy's eyes what is needed to keep this community running smoothly - and every new discovery is more sickening than the last. However, also having Elder's POV (someone for whom life on the ship is completely natural) allows us to debate the ethics of it all. Life on the ship really is a utopia, but it comes at a terrible price. Across the Universe does what dystopia is supposed to do, IMO, which is make us question whether a 'perfect' world is worth it.

I could say more, I could talk about this book all day, but really, I just want to encourage everybody to read it. I think Across the Universe is a perfect series opener: It works as a standalone, as it tells a complete story and I don't mind some things being left unanswered and to the imagination. However, there are some things I really want to see happen (Amy and Elder making it off the ship, for one!) so I am keen to read the second and third books and follow this story wherever it goes.

Rating: 5 stars


  1. Sold! Fantastic review. I was thinking and thinking and thinking about buying this I know what to do :-)

  2. I'm a massive sci-fi geek too and this book sounds amazing. This is what we need book reviews for because I wouldn't have even looked twice at it based on the cover!

  3. Gah I went on a huge book buying spree yesterday and I almost got this one but I hesitated! Now I wish that I had picked it up!! Guess I'll have to try to get a copy from the library :P

  4. I can't wait to read this one. I'm still waiting for it on hold at my library! I like sci-fi and they aren't easy to find in YA! Great review! :)

  5. I'm so pleased you guys want to read this. That's what I was hoping to accomplish with my review.

    Lan - The cover is really misleading, as there is not much romance in the book. Amy and Elder are still in the 'getting to know each other' part of their relationship. Also, an annoying thing about the cover is that it makes Elder look Caucasian, when the people of his time are supposed to be a monoethnic mixture of the races who were originally on the ship. It's important to the plot because Amy is the only white person on the ship and part of Elder's fascination with her is that she looks completely different to anyone he's ever seen. The cover makes the two of them look like they have similar physical characteristics, which goes against what's expressed in the book.


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