Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: Every Soul A Star

Wendy Mass
This book has one of the most unique premises I've come across lately. The story follows three young teens during their stay at a stargazing camp called Moon Shadow as eclipse-chasers from around the world prepare for a total eclipse of the sun. The book is told in first person, from three different characters: Ally, whose family has run the campground for longer than she can remember; Bree, a wannabe model who's mortified to learn that her family will be taking over care of the camp after the eclipse; and Jack, a loner on the trip with a tour group headed by his science teacher. The story follows these three teens from a little over a week before the eclipse right up to the big event. Bree's trying to come to grips with being exiled out in the middle of nowhere for the next three years while Ally has to deal with leaving the place she loves for the dullness of civilization, where she'll have to navigate the complexities of public school and peers.

This book had tons of potential but, unfortunately, failed to live up to it. While the premise is amazing, the plot meanders along at a snail's pace; it takes until nearly a third of the way through before the story really begins, and even then it goes incredibly slow as I kept waiting for something to happen. There was a lot of science here, which would have been really interesting and good if it had been better integrated instead of ending up as long-winded, academia-heavy speeches from the more knowledgeable characters. As it was it felt far too easy to get lost - or bored - during the explanations of eclipses, space junk, and dark matter. I found myself wishing that this book were told from just one character's POV as all three narratives had very similar voices, enough that I often forgot whose chapter I was reading and had to double check. The characters themselves  are sometimes complex and well-developed (Jack and Ryan, who was one of the most interesting characters) and sometimes flat and stereotypical (Bree and Ally).

Jack, the loner of the group, is the only one of the three main characters with any real dimension to him - he's interested in science fiction but failed his actual science class, he has no friends back home but quickly finds his place among the eclipse-chasers, and though he can sometimes be boring, he's a very kindhearted character. Ally, the "astrodork," has grown up completely isolated from anything resembling civilization - no internet, no television, no texting, no music - and this makes her interesting, but dull as I sometimes found myself wondering how she could be that out of the loop. Bree on the other hand, is beautiful, popular, and completely vapid. She wants to be a model, has a grading system for other people's appearances, and starts the book one hundred percent annoying though she definitely grows as a person through the course of her narrative. The relationships here are fairly predictable - sweet, but predictable as middle-school-style romances form, new friendships are born, and everyone learns to get along with people who are nothing like them. It's good, but it mostly feels boring, which is the biggest problem with this book.

I continued reading this book in the hopes that it would pick up, that something would happen, that there would be a big payoff at the end and, unfortunately, there wasn't. It was a decent book with an interesting subject, but the plot was too slow and the writing was too dull to really hold my attention.

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