Chasing the Stars, Malorie Blackman

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It’s a week before I commence my teacher’s training, and my brain is taking a break from the intensity of the books I have been reading, and so when I stopped off at the library to kill time before getting my hair cut and saw this sitting on the top of a bookcase, I just had to take a look.

It’s been years since I read Malorie Blackman. To my mind she was a one-trick-pony – I read Noughts and Crosses, thought it was alright and have somehow never seen anything else written by her since. Turns out, according to the mini biography at the back of this novel, that she’s written over 60 books, this one in 2016. So there’s a world of Blackman out there that I haven’t explored, but this was a good place to start.

The Premise

Vee and Aiden are only eighteen, but for the past three years they have been travelling through space on their own, after the death of the crew of their spaceship from a deadly virus.

Nathan has been abandoned on a small planet which has been attacked by their enemies, the Mazon, and only 22 of the hundreds of other settlers survive when Vee and Aiden rescue them.

Vee’s solitude is broken by the arrival of the settlers, and she falls head over heels in love with Nathan, agreeing to ‘join’ with him (equivalent of marriage) after only a few days. But there is a murderer loose on the ship, and both Nathan and Vee have secrets that they would rather leave hidden. Can their relationship survive the tumultuous months it will take to get everyone to safety?

The Verdict

It’s a guilty pleasure of mine that I do really enjoy reading books written for teens. Everything is so simple – they meet, they fall in love, they marry… their considerations are so much smaller than they should be. Vee is the captain of a ship but she basically loses interest because she meets a boy. Nathan is a ‘drone’ – an outcast from society – with more to think about that this relationship but, again, it doesn’t matter. They don’t even take into consideration the fact that they are heading for different places. There is something eternally reassuring about this optimism and spontaneity that makes a book enjoyable on a simplistic level that I really relate to.

Blackman does a good job of making the book about more than the romance. She follows the couple down a difficult path of distrust, dishonesty and disillusionment. Their spontaneous relationship undergoes more trials, and their reactions are more human and realistic than often found in teenage novels.

The supporting cast, however, suffers. The first person narrative really narrows the focus to the two narrators, leaving everyone else out in the cold. I suspected there was something wrong with Aiden right from the beginning, as I think Blackman expected, but a lot of what I considered clues may just have been sloppy writing, because everyone took such a side seat. Characters weren’t well thought through and multi dimensional, but rather had their one ‘thing’ – the ex, the gardener, the protector, the commander – and stuck to it. Whilst Vee and Nathan do grow, the rest of the cast do not, which I think is a real shame.

The imagery throughout is stunning though. The descriptions of solar systems, ion clouds and other space based phenomenons were effective and well drawn. Blackman clearly does her research.

The Verdict

Overall this was a fun, light read that I read over the course of a day. It develops its protagonists well, follows the standard structure of teen romance stories but ends in a much more realistic and gritty way. Whilst flawed for an adult, I can see how this novel would attract teens as interested readers.

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