Saturday, September 26, 2020

Review: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Title: The Sound of Stars
Author: Alechia Dow
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release date: February 25th 2020
Pages: 432
Genre: Young Adult sci-fi
Source: Purchased
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Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Today, seventeen-year-old Ellie Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie still keeps a secret library. When young Ilori commander M0Rr1S finds Ellie’s library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. Humanity’s fate rests in the hands of an alien Ellie should fear, but M0Rr1S has a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous journey with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

I was super excited about this book both because I love Alechia Dow on Twitter and because the human-alien love story sounded super cool. Not only did this book meet my high expectations and tell a great story; every single detail about it is adorable and the book made me smile throughout. 

The best thing about this book are the characters. I absolutely loved both Ellie and M0Rr1s. Ellie is a fantastic character through which to explore the alien invasion; I love how well the novel blends her experience during this alien invasion with her awareness that for her, as a queer Black woman who suffers from anxiety, the world was never really safe to begin with. Her dedication to saving humanity from this alien invasion, and her simultaneous skepticism of humanity being worth saving, make for a really interesting backdrop to this species survival story. M0Rris is a little harder to connect with than Ellie since he's, ya know, an alien, but I still really loved him. The parallels between Ellie's experiences as a Black woman and M0Rris's experiences as a labmade Ilori (a second-class citizen on his home planet) are really well done, especially in conjunction with both of their relationships to their own sexuality. Their romance is adorable, and I loved them together; I do think that it moved a little fast so that part of their connection was difficult to grasp, but I also think that makes sense under the circumstances.

I also absolutely loved Dow's writing style. Dow somehow managed to make this book feel very informal or conversational, in the sense that the first-person narration seems realistic and fun, while simultaneously dropping some gorgeous one-liners on you that will make you stop and marvel. 

This book makes tons of references to books and music, and a lot of those books are YA, which made me so happy. The whole love story starts with M0Rr1S reading Ellie's copy of The Hate U Give, and I don't know what could be better than a love story grounded in love for The Hate U Give. Ellie makes references to characters from lesser-known YA novels, too, which made me so happy to see. Asides from all of these references just being super fun, they felt very affirming both in the sense of establishing YA as "real" literature (whatever that means) and of creating a connection between Ellie and the reader, so every single one of them made me super happy (except for the Harry Potter references which, ya know, didn't age well--but since Dow wrote this novel before She Who Shall Not Be Named ruined our childhoods, I can't really fault her for that). These references made The Sound of Stars read like the most ~YA~ YA novel ever, which I loved.

My only issue with the novel was the pacing. I felt like some parts in the beginning and middle were a little slow, while the ending happened REALLY fast, to the point where I felt a little lost. I'm not sure how to feel about the ending; I loved all the plot twists and how everything came together, but I still have so many questions! I feel like we need a sequel to this novel, but from what I understand, this is going to be a stand-alone...?

I highly recommend The Sound of Stars if you're looking for a sci-fi book that simultaneously explores a number of important issues and will make you smile the entire time you're reading it. Everything about this novel felt very unapologetically YA, so even the things I've critiqued (the pacing of the plot and how quickly Ellie and M0Rr1S fall in love) kind of works and just made me love it even more. I'll definitely be reading whatever Alechia Dow publishes next!

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