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**
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.
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:
- Girl is an orphan. Girl feels like no one understands her and feels alone in the world.
- Her best friend is in love with her, but she isn’t sure she feels the same way
- A mysterious Outsider makes her get all goo-goo eyed, but she pushes him/he pushes her away
- There is a love triangle between Jak and Evan
- 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.
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!
★★★★☆. 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!!