Across the Universe by Beth Review, published by Puffin on 3rd March 2011
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
If you like your romances with a twist then this is the book for you!
The advance hype for 'Across the Universe' has been massive and I've been eagerly awaiting getting my hands on a copy for several months now. When it finally arrived I was torn between wanting to pick it up and tear through it in one sitting or just savouring the delight of having it on my bookshelf and then reading it very slowly to make the enjoyment last. My strength of will didn't last very long however and as soon as I did start it everything else was forgotten. When I'd finished I was left with a feeling of stunned amazement and its taken me several days to put coherant thoughts together about it.
For a start, the story itself is just so original that it's unlike anything else I've read on the teen market. It's described as a cross between Titanic and Avatar and combines romance and aspects of science-fiction. I found myself absolutely immersed in the world that Beth Revis had created and gasping in shock at the many twists and turns and unexpected revelations that occur throughout.
The book gets off to a very strong start with one of the best openings I've ever read. The reader's senses are assaulted with the horror of teenager Amy and her parents being cryo-genically frozen so that they can be transported into space onboard a ship which will take them 300 years into the future where they will re-populate and colonise a new planet. The process is described in pretty graphic detail and is horrifying to witness. This is an example of the way in which Revis doesn't pull any punches in the book.
Each chapter from then on alternates between Amy's point of view and that of Elder who is second-in-command to Eldest the commander and leader of the Godspeed ship and the man responsible for ensuring that everyone onboard the ship gets to their new location safely, even though many will never see the new planet. I found the idea of living onboard the Godspeed and never being able to leave terrible to contemplate. The thought of not breathing fresh air or seeing natural light or feeling real rain or sunshine is horrible. I can understand the depth of despair that some of them feel and the sense of claustrophobia. There are several layers to the Godspeed including the Keeper level, Feeder level and the Shipper level. I enjoyed learning about each of these and the people that live on them.
The book deals with the power of knowledge as well as the danger that too much knowledge can bring. The question of whether or not it is better to know or remain ignorant is touched upon and this is central to the plot of the story.
I enjoyed the burgeoning relationship between Amy and Elder and the gradual blossoming of their friendship. Although Elder experiences romantic pangs for Amy, I'm glad that she's not won over quite so quickly and longs instead to have her parents with her. As this is the first book in a trilogy there's plenty more time for their story to be explored in greater depth.
'Across the Universe' also contains adult themes of rape and incest, although these are written about sensitively and carefully. Still, the inclusion of topics such as these, do mean that the book would probably be more suited to a slightly older teen audience.
I was completely blown away by this book. The ending shocked me, as well as the beginning, and I was sucked into Amy's story from the word go. If you're looking for a mind-blowing read that I would describe in one word as phenomenal then grab a copy of this now!