Friday 7 January 2011

Across the Universe Review

The first cause of discord is difference
The second cause of discord is lack of a strong central leader
The third cause of discord is...

When I first heard about Across the Universe by Beth Revis, I was definitely interested to read it; after all it’s YA IN SPACE!!! This had me excited enough already but it wasn’t until I saw the gorgeous cover and read the first chapter that I really began lusting after it. I was HOOKED from the very first chapter which is in my humble opinion *THE* best first chapter I’ve ever read in my life. The way Beth describes the freezing process is both horrific and fascinating at the same time. And to my surprise it didn’t stop there the book just got better and better. To the point that I was sat on the train to London and some noisy children got on and sat opposite me (I am a magnet for children, I have no idea why). Anyway, usually I can’t read with that much noise and distraction but I was literally SUCKED into the world inside the book and just zoned out. Here’s the gist of the story:

The world of Across the Universe is mostly centred around Amy, a 17 year old girl who has to make a decision early on whether or not to follow her parents (who are essential to terraforming new planets) onto Godspeed, a shape ship that will take 350 years to reach its destination. When Amy wakes, things are a little different to what she expected. For one, not only was she reanimated 50 years too early but it was no accident and she must face the realisation that someone tried to kill her. The question is why? As more “frozens” are being left out to thaw, the hunt is on for the killer. Amy teams up with Elder, the future leader of the people aboard Godspeed and together they discover that the ship holds many secrets which will make them question everything they’ve ever known.

Amy is one of our main protagonists and Godspeed (a world in itself) is built on monoethnicity, an idea put into practice to prevent one of the main reasons for discord: differences. And of course, Amy stands out like a sore thumb with her pale skin and flaming red hair. But it is her differences that first capture the attention of Elder, our other main protagonist and by far my favourite character. Elder is second in command of the people (rather than the ship, the ship runs itself) and a future leader in training. I liked his inquisitiveness and the way he wasn’t afraid to question things. And for a 16 year old boy, I really admire his courage and integrity. He certainly has the traits I would like to see in a leader. But he’s frustrated because Eldest (the current leader) appears to be neglecting his duties in preparing Elder for the time when he must lead and that frustration is felt throughout the book. I thought that Beth captured the plight of a teenage girl who realises that she won’t ever see her parents again and is alone in a strange, new world really well. I loved Amy's “spunkiness”, her defiant attitude that kept her going.

Eldest was a very interesting character for many reasons (most of which I can’t mention for fear of spoiling the book) and his steadfast belief that he is right and does what he does for the good of the people even if ethically or morally, it is wrong.

I also had a soft spot for Harley and for a secondary character, I thought he was fantastic. He reminded me a bit of Finnick from The Hunger Games. I loved his artistic sensibilities and the way he took to protecting Amy like a big brother.

Across the Universe is definitely a plot driven novel but I’m happy to report that the characters are also fleshed out well. I’ve realised recently that I need both to be truly satisfied with a story. Having said all that, I think one of the biggest selling points of Across the Universe is the world building. I’m astounded with just how believable everything is. I love the fact that accents have changed and new words have formed which is totally representative of a future society. Everyone looks the same to try and retain a sense of harmony and balance onboard the ship but everyone has a role to fulfil. One of the things I found most disturbing was “the season” which is very animalistic in nature and more about reproduction than loving relationships. I suppose in a way it’s less complicated and an assurance that there will be a new generation but ewww. Again, horrifically fascinating.

There were a lot of themes running through the book and I particularly liked the idea of nature versus nurture. Unfortunately I can’t say much about it as I don’t want to give any spoilers away. The idea of what makes a good leader is brought into the mix and we get to see the differences between a tyrannical leader and the young idealist. I watch A LOT of movies as well as read books and I can usually guess the twists and turns but I did NOT see a lot of the revelations in this book.

I think one of the main messages in the book, or at least one that I got out of it was the idea that you are who you decide to be, regardless of upbringing, environment and any other outside factors. Yes, they can have an influence on you but at the end of the day, YOU CHOOSE to be who you are and I like that.

In conclusion, Across the Universe is an outstanding debut novel that will satisfy your need for a sci-fi adventure and romance that spans across space and time. Across the Universe was everything I thought it was going to be...and then some. I absolutely loved it and am adding it to my top reads of 2011. By the time this has been posted, I will have pre-ordered and hopefully received a finished copy of the book so I can read it and fall in love with it all over again. Please God someone buy the movie rights as that would ROCK MY WORLD!

Thank you to Penguin for sending me an ARC. Across the Universe is out of this frexing* world and I would urge you to give it a read. The US hardback is released on 11th January, 2011 however us Brits have to wait a little longer for the paperback release on 3rd March. The as of yet untitled sequel is due out next year and I can’t wait! My only request is for more kissing please!

You can visit Beth at her beautifully designed website here. She is also part of The League of Extraordinary Writers (debut YA Dystopian writers) and you can access the website here. Beth is active on Twitter and Across the Universe has its own fan page. To read the exciting first chapter, click here. And finally, if you are a UK book blogger and would like to read Across the Universe, sign up at UK Book Tours.

* When you read the book, you’ll understand the reference ;)


  1. Excellent review! I loved this book, too, and can't wait until everyone gets the chance to read it so I can talk about it more without spoiling it for everyone.

    Happy Reading!
    The Book Swarm

  2. This is such a fantastic review! You don't know how much more I want to read this now... it sounds incredibly awesome!

    -Jean x

  3. What a great review! :) I really can't wait to read this one :)

  4. Mary - I'm in total agreement with you there!

    Jean and Clover - thanks ladies, I hope you love it!

  5. You make who you are, conformity versus individuality, difference makes discord. Hm. I never thought of this before, but this would be a kick ass book for an English class.