There Once Were Stars – Melanie McFarlane (Review)

Title: There Once Were Stars
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC, 2016
Genre: YA Dystopian, YA Science Fiction

**I received a copy of this book free from Ebooksforreview.com and the Author in exchange for an honest review**

This review can be found on my BlogTeacherofYA’s Tumblr, and my Goodreads page

My Review:

I know…I’m reading too fast lately to even do a “Currently Reading for Review” post…I just can’t help it. Between reading and responding to comments, reading my books, and writing reviews, it is hard to put any other posts up here. I’m trying to…but I used to be able to post an Upcoming Reads post and then finish the book in a couple days. Maybe it’s because school is coming up this coming week, and it’s making me read faster, or maybe it’s the fact that ALL these deadlines are at the end of the month. Be that as it may, here is There Once Were Stars.


Once again, a beautiful cover sucked me in…and an intriguing blurb:

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of her dome. Now Nat wants answers. What else might her government be hiding from the good and loyal people of Dome 1618?

I love a good dystopian novel. I know most of them might sound similar, but the protagonist always has their own battles, and the plot differs enough to where you can enjoy the novel. This novel, while a fun read, was not as involved as I was hoping.

Natalia “Nat” Greyes has a favorite place she goes to in order to reflect: a hollowed-out dead tree the Order has somehow forgotten to tear down. Because, in Nat’s world, if it can’t contribute, it’s useless. The tree should be cut down for other living trees, trees that give oxygen. On her eighteenth birthday, Nat stares at the locket given to her by her angry grandmother; inside, there is a picture of her mother and father, who died during an expedition outside the dome due to radiation poisoning. (Btw, why are all our dystopian heroines orphans? Is that a theme now? But I digress…) As Nat glances over her mother’s notebook, she spots a person OUTSIDE the dome. But that’s impossible. After the Cleasing Wars to rid the world of the infection, radiation killed and continues to kill anything outside the protective layer of the dome. 

When she goes to the edge of the dome, she sees a face she can’t place…but before she can see who it is, another Outsider is captured and brought inside. And he’s not infected or dying of radiation poisoning. Suddenly she’s assigned to the Science department where her parents worked before their deaths. And there she meets the Outsider, Evan, and he tells them all that the air is safe, and it is okay to leave the dome. Where he comes from, everyone has made the transition outside. The Order begins setting up a team to see if this is true, and Nat and Evan are paired together. The mysterious stranger makes Nat feel things she’s never felt before, and all after her best friend Jak has confessed his undying love. 

But there’s more than meets the eye: who was the stranger with Evan that day that Nat recognized but can’t place? Amd if there’s no radiation, them how did her parents really die? Is the Order keeping secrets from the people? And did her parents know something that might’ve cost them their lives? 

So…it was an okay read. As you can see, the classic tropes are all there:

  1. Girl is an orphan. Girl feels like no one understands her and feels alone in the world.
  2. Her best friend is in love with her, but she isn’t sure she feels the same way
  3. A mysterious Outsider makes her get all goo-goo eyed, but she pushes him/he pushes her away
  4. There is a love triangle between Jak and Evan
  5. The government is hiding something

When done right, these elements can still exist and not taint the story. But the story felt rushed, and it was 331 pages. By Chapter Two, everything is in an uproar. We haven’t even really been able to get a feel for this world before there is upheaval in Nat’s heart. Evan and Nat’s relationship feels rushed, even though they go back and forth. I just felt like I was going through the motions on this one, and it might be because I’ve read it all before. And because of that, I felt like I knew what was happening. And because of that, I just kept going and the pages flew by, and it was over. Maybe because I’m used to dystopian novels developing over a period of several books, this one felt so rushed to me? I don’t know. It wasn’t bad. But it’s unfortunately forgettable. I don’t regret reading it. But I doubt I’ll remember it several months down the line.

Is It Classroom-Apppropriate?

Actually, it’s perfect for the classroom, because it starts, climaxes, and ends in one book, unlike most literature in this genre. So students can read it and understand dystopian lit during a single unit. It could be used as an anchor text for sure. It also would make an easy book for students to pick apart because all the elements of a dystopian story are there, even the love triangle. So yes, it’s great for a dystopian unit…and it would be an effective narrative tool.

Age Range:

I would go as low as 13 here. There’s nothing profane in this book at all. I can’t go based on Lexile scores because Lexile only covers the big publishers, but I can tell you with all confidence that even middle school age kids could follow and enjoy this book. It gets my seal of approval for classroom and young reader use!

End Result:

★★★★☆. It’s more like 3.5, but I can’t give out half stars. It’s not bad. It’s just forgettable. But if you’re a major fan of dystopian literature and you want something a little different than the standard, this is not for you. I’d recommend it to people who want to try the genre out without committing to reading several books, or to people who love the classic formula for a tried-and-true dystopia.

And you want a DIY dystopia? Just follow the list provided in this review. Fill in names, and a name for your oppressive government, and you’re all set! 😉

Thank you to Ebooksforreview for allowing me to read and review this book. I have found some amazing books through them, so really, check them out!!


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23 thoughts on “There Once Were Stars – Melanie McFarlane (Review)

  1. All the dystopians heroines are orphans so that can give them not only freedom to cause havoc but also that bravery to self defense because no one else around to keep them safe. Well… Just my beliefs hehe I also like the elements of surprises if you don’t post currently reading for review and dive through with the review 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It definitely sounds interesting and your review covers some great pros and cons…
    When I saw the cover I thought it was going to be paranormal/fantasy book- Nat finds out she’s an angel or something 😄 Surprise element was great- a dystopian. I don’t read many dystopians.. I think the only series I’ve stuck with this far is Ryan Mark’s Tremor (book 1) and Fracture (book 2) and maybe some books have had elements… but I never kind of willingly pick them out for myself…
    There once were stars does sound interesting- I love a good government conspiracy!:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if you don’t read a lot of them, then this one is perfect for you, because it has all the elements but it’s not drawn out into a series. Then you can see if you are going to be obsessed with the genre like me!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Seeing you write out the tropes definitely had me rolling my eyes lol. This sounds like a common themes YA Dystopian novel. I really love reading your reviews, you’re so thorough with all the points. I completely understand what you mean about books not being so bad but forgettable. Do you ever start blurring the lines and ask yourself “wait what book was that in?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I do…all the time! After awhile I think back and go…”was that the book where he did, no wait, that was the other one…”
      And I put all the books I love on my favorites shelf so I’ll remember, but it is mainly the three and four star books whose plots I seem to forget.
      This will probably be one of them. Especially since the title is so ambiguous: the title tells you nothing about the book. It has nothing to do with it.
      But it least it’s a purty cover, right? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’d pass on this one unless you were new to the genre, you know?
      I think it would be good for someone who is dipping their toe in and testing the water…but if it’s someone like you or I, who’ve read plenty, then I say skip it.
      Still love the original ones…and they are out there, waiting to be read…so tired of “Hunger Games meets Divergent” or some crap like that as the comparison.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I do enjoy dystopian books, although I haven’t read many lately, but maybe it’s a genre I need to get back into a little. Despite the fact that this one seems to follow a lot of tropes like you’ve outlines in your review, it still sounds like a good story. Is it the first of a series or a standalone?
    Also wow I really love that cover!
    Great review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a stand alone, but since you and I have similar tastes, I would recommend you pass on this one. I think there are better out there, and it’s kind of forgettable.
      I’m reading an interesting one right now called Unplugged. It’s similar to the short story I wrote, so I freaked at first, but there are enough differences to where I can still write mine and not worry. It is a little Matrix-y…and I like that.
      So skip this one and hopefully tomorrow I’ll have one I can really recommend. Unless you want to read a quick moving dystopia that is really really really like all the others you’ve probably read.
      This book is more like Dystopia 101, or Intro to Dystopias. If I know you, I just don’t think you’ll like it too much, either, but of course it is completely your call! 👍

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I think that’s one of the things I’ll need in a dystopian novel when I get around to picking one up again. There needs to be something unique to keep my reading, keep me interested.
        I hope you enjoy the rest of Unplugged, though given when you wrote this comment and when I’m replying you’ve probably already finished it and wrote the review, I hope it is one you can recommend to me! 😀
        No I haven’t really been a fan of books in the past that seem more like they follow the theme of a generic dystopian novel with nothing that really stands out. It’s one of the reasons I had issues with Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s so funny what you said about my finishing the book…because I did. Lol.
      I put up a review, but I am sure as I’m going through my comments now that you have probably seen it…it’s funny that we both get so long on these posts that others crop up!
      Now I’m reading The Fox Inheritance…but I don’t know for how much longer! 😝
      I am planning on reading Red Queen because it got SO MUCH hype. The only hyped fantasy books I don’t plan on reading are the SJM ones…the Throne of Glass series? I can’t remember which one is the first in that series…I could be mentioning the third book for all I know! I mainly stay far away from high fantasy because I just can’t get into it.
      And between you and me, I thought the first book version looked better than the new ones with video-game looking characters on the cover. The original starter book in that series had a real person on the cover…and I like that better than those animated people that are on there now.
      Watch: every SJM fan is going to hate me now!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, I saw your review after I posted my comment, and I’m guessing after you replied to this comment you saw my comment on your review! I guess given there’s a time difference between us when I post comments and posts and you post comments and posts it takes us a while to catch up on each other!
        I’ll be on the look out for your review for that one then as well.
        I wouldn’t recommend Red Queen, it has got a lot of hype but I found it to be so generic and I didn’t enjoy the characters much at all. No Throne of Glass is the first book, that’s a series I would recommend but maybe not if you prefer staying away with high fantasy books.
        I wasn’t aware there was another cover for the first book, but hey everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, it goes for the covers as well as the story itself. If you prefer the first cover then that’s the one you prefer, nothing bad about that! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Yeah, I have a couple Aussie friends, too. It just totally slipped my mind! I’ll have to look up time zones and see what time it is in your area and in theirs. I was also floored when Aimal from Bookshelves and Paperbacks told me it was winter where she was…I was like, winter in August? That sounds so weird. But then again, summer in August must be weird for them!

      Liked by 1 person

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