Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Summary from the author’s website:

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awake 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 a 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.

Amy cover

"Amy" cover

I didn’t expect to fall for this book. Really, I didn’t. It was one of many recommended to me by the divine Kelley Armstrong when she very, very kindly visited our school. How could I pass up such a glowing recommendation, from someone I respect so greatly? Still, after I picked it up from our local bookseller, it just kind of …. sat there. I reached for other books on the TBR pile, until finally, I picked up.

Wow. Am I happy I did! First of all, if you have the hardcover version – lucky, lucky you! The amazingness that is the reversible – yeah, you heard me, reversible – cover contains the two faces and stars and pinkiness and blue, AND the incredible blueprints of the good ship Godspeed on the reverse. Believe me, you’ll want to refer to those blueprints as you read the book.

But wait, you say, there are TWO covers? Why is that? Ah, my friends, the reason is this: the story is told through two different and alternating points of view. There’s Amy, a seventeen-year old girl who is one of the “frozens” on board, and Elder, a sixteen-year-old boy who is the apprentice to the leader in charge of the individuals who live on Godspeed. I’ll confess, the story grabbed me from the beginning, although it’s a tough first chapter. However, it’s a necessary first chapter, as it lays the groundwork for understanding Amy as a character.

The characters are complex and multilayered, and Revis is able to add further dimensions to them throughout the story that continue to draw the reader deeper into the story. I felt Amy’s anguish at realizing she was separated from her parents and I sympathized with Elder for desperately trying to find his own place in his world.  I loved the character of Harley; to me, he is comparable to Piggy in Lord of the Flies in that he is often the voice of reason in a world gone mad.

I don’t think I’d classify this as a romantic book; in fact, I think the “Amy cover” as Revis herself calls it is actually a bit misleading. This is a sci-fi mystery, with a dash of dystopian thrown in for good measure. Yes, there is some flirtation with a romance between the two characters, but that’s not the driving force of the story. Instead, you are drawn into life on Godspeed, discovering, as Amy does, that all is not as it seems, and sometimes what you take as truth can be horrifying in its reality.

Finally, I have to admire Revis’ ability to tier the secrets in this book. Like the layers of a Tootsie Roll popTM (cliché I know), each time a new secret is revealed you realize that there is more to learn before you reach the centre. Even at the end of the book, there are more secrets to be revealed – but I’m okay with that. I was discussing this book with a friend, and compared it to a three-part opera. I feel like this book is the first arc– it does its job to not only introduce the characters and the setting, but it does manage to resolve the major plot line while still leaving the story open for continuation in “A Million Suns” and beyond. If something was to happen, you know that you could end this book and be satisfied with the resolution of the story. Happily, that’s not the case, and we will see Elder and Amy again in the next book.

The Good Stuff:

  • the characters are strong and engaging – you care about what happens to them, and your heart aches for them at times
  • the adventure! You will hang on the edge of your seat as events transpire
  • the multitude of secrets that are revealed, each more surprising than the others before.

The Not-So-Good Stuff:

  • that there’s a break between this and the next book???
  • that the different covers may put off readers, although they are actually awesome (Revis agrees!)
  • not for those who dislike the sci-fi world – and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wasn’t 12+

"Elder" cover

Would I buy it for my library ? I already have – twice. I have one copy displayed with the “Amy” cover, and one copy displayed with the “Elder” cover. Interestingly enough, the girls are uniformly selecting the Amy, while the boys are selecting the Elder, despite my reassurances that “it’s exactly the same book inside!”. Hmmmmm….