HOLD BACK THE STARS
Written by Katie Khan
Published by Gallery Books, May 23, 2017
My star rating: 3.5 stars
Trapped in the vast void of space, Carys and Max have only ninety minutes of oxygen left to live. None of this was supposed to happen. After a freak accident, Carys and Max are left adrift in space with nothing to hold onto but each other. As they fall, they can’t help but look back at the world they left behind. A world whose rules they couldn’t submit to, a place where they never really belonged; a home they’re determined to get back to because they’ve come too far to lose each other now. While their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? (Goodreads)
So have you ever finished a book and fought with yourself afterwards? I really liked it – wait no I didn’t – this part was really good – but this part I didn’t like….. I just can’t figure out what I thought! This review will probably be a confusing mess but I’ll try to keep it cohesive, and break it down into sections.
This world was so very unique and I loved how different it was! Countries that were aligned supported each other, and countries that chose to stay out of the alignment were left on their own or were attacked. But instead of calling them countries they were now called Voivodes. Within those voivodes, society has changed. Every three years people must rotate. Basically, within this “Utopian” society, the individual is considered more important. From a very young age, everyone is set to live on their own, even without their parents or family. They’re allowed to communicate with their friends and family but experiencing life as an individual, free to make your own choices, make mistakes, and basically just experience everything life has to offer without being tied down to anyone is what they’re after. So every three years there’s a rotation and you’re moved to a new place in the world for new experiences. Then, later on in life, when you’re older and have all of your life experiences out of the way, you can meet someone, have kids, and settle down. Now, this is a book where I really would have appreciated some info dumping! This world so interesting that info dumping wouldn’t have been boring. But instead, the information was released as the story went on and we were just left to accept things the way they were until then. We knew that America and the Middle East were destroyed yet never really knew how or why. And then there were the Voivode games (which are kind of like the Olympics) and they were just kind of thrown into the story. It felt a little displaced. The world building was great, don’t get me wrong, I just wish I had a little more detail and information so I could understand and connect with it more.
As it said in the synopsis, Max and Carys are trapped floating in space. They have 90 minutes of air left and are left to reflect on their lives as time runs out. As they fight to find a way to survive, we’re brought back into glimpses of their past and what lead them to that moment. This was SOOOO well done!! Books that have the format of going back and forth between past and present are difficult. Sometimes you’re confused as to which time line you’re in or what it has to do with the story. But with this book, every reflection coincided with what they were talking about or experiencing in the present. The whole thing flowed perfectly! It added perfect depth and I never wondered what timeline I was in or what significance it had.
Along with that, the writing was fantastic as well. Descriptions were precise and complete, the words flowed and so did the dialogue. There was quite a bit of dialogue and I never once thought “who talks like this?”. It was all very natural.
Sadly, I never felt fully connected to the main characters. I enjoyed both Max and Carys but I personally missed an emotional mark with them. I was interested in what was happening with them, but the emotional connection wasn’t what I was hoping. Near the end of the book I felt a little more connected, but I was hoping for a little bit more. I think that part of that had to do with the nature of the story. These people had grown up their whole lives being told that they are just individuals. They have to move every three years so making a long lasting emotional connection with anyone would feel pointless. This is actually brought up in the book. So these two people find something in each other that they want to last and they’re trying to navigate the possibilities of that, even though it goes against the grain of their upbringing. They themselves keep some of their emotions at arms length due to the nature of their society so it’s hard for the reader to connect with something they aren’t allowing in themselves. If the main character doesn’t understand their own emotions, as a reader there’s a bit of a disconnect. So I don’t want to say that the author did a bad job at creating relatable characters. That’s not the case in their one. The author did a good job in creating an uncertainty that they were feeling throughout the process.
I finally felt that I connected with them in their last 6 minutes of air time. These last 6 minutes takes up the third and final part of the book. I will not spoil the ending for you, but let me tell you I didn’t expect it! There were a few points that I predicted throughout the book so I kind of expected to predict the ending as well. I almost thought I had it……. and then no! Not even close. Along with the world the ending was so very unique and I really enjoyed it!
In the end, this one was very enjoyable and something incredibly different. The problems I ended up having with it were more personal in nature than the actual execution. I have a feeling this is going to be a book that I replay and reconsider for a long time. My rating sits at a 3.5 at the moment but may change as I process it.
Until next time, happy reading!