Sunday, 14 October 2012

YA Book Review: 'Across the Universe' by Beth Revis

Across the Universe
by Beth Revis

Published: January 11th, 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Bought From Amazon
Format: E-Book
Pages: 416

Cover Art

Although this cover is cheesy, I think it is quite iconic amongst YA readers, and is a cover most people would recognise. It is pretty, but quite overly romantic considering the relatively small amount of romance in the book.

Plot Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My Rating:

First Lines:

'Daddy said, "Let Mom go first". 
Mom wanted me to go first. I think it was because she was afraid that after they were contained and frozen, I'd walk away, return to life rather than consign myself to that cold, clear box.'

Pocket-Size Review

Distinctly average. To be honest, sci-fi is one of my least favourite genres, especially when it is actually set in space on a spaceship. It makes me feel claustrophobic.

Highs: This may shock you: the lead female character has been in love and had sex before! She is feisty rather than awkward and confident rather then unsure. It was something different.
Lows: I just found this book to be rather dull, depressing and forgettable. Not my cup of tea.


Needs more sex and violence. Or something. This book was just so average it hurt. I don't often say this, but I wish this book had lived up to the cheesiness that the cover promised; it is had it might have at least left more of a lasting impression. 

I think my enjoyment of this book was hindered by the fact that spaceships in general just do not interest me. It is all metal and tubes and terminals and supplies; my eyes glaze over when the spaceship jargon comes in. I don't dislike the entire sci-fi genre; Dr Who is one of my favourite things and I love books like Discworld by Terry Pratchett that are set on a different planet. I like sci-fi that has travel and different worlds and adventures and a sense of freedom; books set on a spaceship are the complete opposite of that. The characters are trapped in this incredibly small space and it is incredibly claustrophobic and dull after a while. I mean, how interesting can the inside of a spaceship really be? This ship has an incredibly boring, overly ordered and organised layout with perfectly square fields and grey metal walls. You start to feel as lethargic and trapped as the characters whilst reading, and it is hard to enjoy something when you are feeling anxious.

I am finding it difficult to properly critique this book because I can't help but feel that I am just the wrong reader for it. I dislike spaceships, and I hate anything overly claustrophobic and helpless and this book has those elements in bucketloads. Amy, one of the main characters, is cryogenically frozen at the beginning of the book and, to be honest, it was a gruesome and rather disgusting process. It was my favourite part. It has the grit and the raw emotion that the rest of the book lacked. Amy is then placed on a spaceship in her frozen state to be awakened in 300 years time, alongside her parents, when the new planet has been reached. However, this book is told through a dual narrative and at the beginning Amy is telling her own story while still frozen. So basically, she is partly conscious and aware while she is frozen...FOR 300 YEARS! She dreams, and is terrified that she has only been frozen for days rather than years. She is trapped in an icy coffin with no idea how much time has passed and no way to move or scream...this is my idea of absolute hell and I found it extremely difficult to read. Blind and buried alive and trapped for hundreds of years... severely horrible. 

The claustrophobia doesn't get any better when Amy is mysteriously awoken on board the ship 50 years before she is supposed to be. Therefore, she must wait 50 years before the spaceship lands on the new planet and she can awaken her parents. Again, horrific. Some people will probably enjoy the writing, and it does evoke a very anxious atmosphere, but I just don't enjoy books that are so despairing and where the characters are so constantly freaked out and frightened. I never feel that I get to know them because they are too stressed by what is happening to them. Characters who are brave and strong like Katniss and Harry can pull off being in extremely scary situations because they are assertive and confident about the decisions they make. In 'Across the Universe', the characters are just unsure, overly moral, and generally a bit wet and, in my opinion, definitely not interesting enough to carry this novel. Elder, the other narrator and, obviously, love interest, is hardly even worth mentioning. He is nothing to write home about. Nice but dim. 

What I did like about this book, was how Amy has actually been in love AND had sex before. She lusts after a boy she has no chance of ever seeing again and who is probably dead, which I liked because it is so rare in YA to see a romance that isn't intense and excitement and sparkling first kisses. Elder and Amy have an extremely fraught relationship, and Amy is usually too frightened to lust after Elder. She has a justifiably terrified reaction to her environment and is confused and wary, rather than constantly making eyes at the nearest available man. Elder, on the other hand, I found to be overly lecherous and a tad too aggressive, such as here;

'Amy bites her lip, and all I want to do is seize her, crush her against me, feel her lips with mine.'

Calm it down Elder. Take a cold shower.

Overall, this book didn't really do anything for me. Aside from the anxiousness and claustrophobia, I had no strong feelings towards the characters or the plot. All they ever talk about (so many many times) are the stars and it gets tedious after a while. We get it: stars are pretty. I did like the ending, but I liked it the way I read it. I read it as if there was no sequel. That Amy had given up. She is not hopeful. She is just tired now. However, this is a series so even that was spoiled for me. I think many people will enjoy this book so if you have any interest in it you should read it. For me, it was nothing special.

Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: I have actually now read the sequel because it had such good reviews. It was an improvement, but not much.

Memorable Quotes: 

'Did he look at the City and marvel at its smooth efficiency, its careful construction, its consistent productivity?

Or did he see it as I do: people boxed in trailers that are boxed in city blocks that are boxed in districts that are boxed in a ship, surrounded by metal walls?'

'Even now, the dreams I had while frozen are fading, becoming fuzzy memories, like dreams do. Did I really dream for three centuries, or did I dream for the few minutes between fully waking and unfreezing? It felt like centuries, dream upon dream piling up in my head- but dreams are like that, time isn't real.'

Three Words to Describe this Book: Forgettable, Spacey, Claustrophobic.

But Don't Take My Word For It...

  • Blog Reviews of  'Across the Universe': 

'Well. I am actually a little scared to write this review. Because I think I am in the very very small minority of people who did not find this book incredible. Don't get me wrong, it was good. It just wasn't amazing.'

'Do you ever notice that when a book blurb tries to sell you something as grandiose as “Across the Universe is Titanic meets Brave New World,” you end up almost inevitably disappointed?

Such is the case of my reading experience with Across the Universe.'


  1. I loved this book! I totally agree about Amy's chapters while she's frozen. Those were majorly disturbing and scared the crap out of me!

    I'm sorry the book as a whole didn't work for you, but we all have different tastes. I'm glad you liked the sequel better though. I still need to read it. :)

    Angie @ Pinkindle Reads & Reviews

  2. I haven't read this book before. I've noticed that people either love it or hae it, so i've been quite hesitant. I do want to try it out for myself, though. Great review!

    - Ellie @ The Selkie Reads Stories

  3. I struggled with this as well. I don't think I made it through the first 50 pages. Well done on finishing it.

  4. Shame to hear you didn't like this Across the Universe. I loved it! Mainly because of the mystery throughout the story. A book is never for every one.

    Becky @ A Reader's Devotion

  5. I have this book and enjoyed it very much. I'm not too fond of this kind of books, but this was okey. Have just read this, no one else in the series.

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