Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Digital Audiobook narrated by Nate Begle
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on April 4, 2017
Series: Constellation #1
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 503 pages or 11 hours, 21 minutes
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She's a soldier - Noemi Vidal is willing to risk anything to protect her planet, Genesis, including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she's a rebel.
He's a machine - Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel's advanced programming has begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he's an abomination.
Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they're not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they're forced to question everything they'd been taught was true.
Noemi is a Genesis soldier, and when her adoptive sister wanders toward an old Earth spaceship, Noemi swoops in to save her. After all, she shouldn’t be wandering off. When she boards, the last thing she expected to find was an A-class mech that has been missing for 30 years and far more sophisticated than its counterparts. The mech, Abel, is forced to accept Noemi as his commander and the two go on a wild hunt through Earth’s planetary colonies, seeking the supplies they need to, hopefully, stop the war between Genesis and Eart
In starting to write this review, I just had one of those weird moments where I couldn’t remember the protagonist’s name. I guess that says a lot about my feelings for Defy the Stars. It was just fine, but it wasn’t spectacular. It was forgettable. I think that the book makes a lot of promises it doesn’t keep within its world-building. There are very few things that annoy me more than a totally awesome world, and a plot that ignores all that and goes for the budding relationship. Give me contemporaries for love stories – I don’t want them breaking in and disrupting my sci-fi action scenes. They can be there, but they shouldn’t be intrusive.
Noemi and Abel are both pretty forgettable characters on their own. Noemi is your typical hard-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside sci-fi heroine, and Abel is your standard AI-who-discovers-he-has-feelings. Nothing about either of these characters makes them overly interesting or special. If you like the characters tropes here, fabulous! But don’t expect any exciting breakthroughs.
The worldbuilding though? Cool. I love the built in aspects of terraforming. The different colonies reminded me a little bit of the factions in Divergent – you can only be on Stronghold if you are, in some way, strong as an example. I wanted to learn more about the universe and Earth’s conquests, but all these things were a backdrop for the relationship. Even the growth of AI and Noemi’s wanting to stop the war felt like excuses to go planet hopping and fall a little more in love at each incident. If you love yourself a YA sci-fi romance, you’ll probably like it. The sci-fi aspects are wicked cool, but they take a back seat.
Worth mentioning – there’s a lot of conversation about religion here. This is personally something that makes me a bit uncomfortable. I find religion in general fascinating; Noemi is Catholic and the conversation was just preachy enough to remind me of my childhood. Noemi talks about faith and prayer quite a bit, blames God for never answering her prayers and struggles with her own waning Catholic belief. There’s not a lot of conversation about religion in YA (it’s one of the things I applauded about Heretics Anonymous) so I think it’s good it was included, even if it wasn’t to my taste. I think that there were times it felt like less of Noemi’s struggle, and more a bit… preachy. But again, I know I’m projecting a bit. Still, I hadn’t seen the mention of religion in other reviews, and as faith is the fundamental cornerstone of Genesis and a constant conversation between Noemi and Abel, it seems really important to talk about it.
Listen, Defy the Stars gets fabulous reviews on Goodreads, maintaining an over four-star average two years post-publication. If you think this is a book you may enjoy and you’ve been waffling about adding it to your TBR, just do it. It’s a great mix of new elements and tired tropes, but I can see people absolutely falling in love with this one. I’m just not one of those people. It was, as I said in the second paragraph, and overall forgettable book for me. I didn’t hate it, I don’t regret reading it, but I found it unexciting.
For those of you audiobook listeners out there – the reader for Abel is very robotic. It’s pretty clear that this is a dramatic choice, but hours in a quirky C3P0-esque monotone were… trying.