I first heard about this book last year, January 2010, at the Winter Conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). The publisher and president of Razorbill (Penguin), Ben Schrank was singing it's praises. He was so excited about it. He couldn't name the book or writer at the time, but he did tell us what the story was about. He stayed up through the night reading it, passed it around the publishing house and everyone was stoked about it. It even came to the attention of Hollywood for movie adaptation at that early stage. As soon as the book was officially announced, I knew this was the book Mr. Schrank had spoken of. He wasn't exaggerating. It is good.
You know what seemed to impress the publisher? This author was sitting in a quiet, rural community in the South, just writing her "little" story. And when she had taken it as far as she could go, she put it forth into the "universe" to see where it would go. As you can see, it's going far. Let this be a lesson to all writers. First rule: write a good story. Everything else will follow.
Across the Universe is a debut young adult novel. The story is set aboard the spaceship Godspeed, bound for a new planet, two hundred and fifty years in the future. Amy, age seventeen is part of a cryogenically frozen group of passengers lying in their icy beds, awaiting their chance to come forth in the new world. Amy makes the fateful decision to join her parents on this adventure and they are all scheduled to awake in three hundred years. There’s just one problem. Amy has been awakened fifty years too early. And it looks like it’s the work of a murderer.
Amy awakes to find a new society enclosed in a vast metal container, a world of technological advances, one in which she is the outsider—and the threat. But Amy knows the real threat lies outside of herself. There’s Eldest, the tyrannical leader who has an iron grasp on his people and then there’s Elder, his teen protégé. Elder has always done as he was told; that is, until Amy makes her appearance and things began to change at breakneck speed. A murderer is on the loose. If whoever it is isn’t stopped, Amy’s parents could be the next victims. It’ll only take one pull of the plug on their frozen coffins to keep them sleeping forever.
Amy’s chance to stop this lies with Elder, but who is he really and can he and anyone on this ship of apparent madness be trusted?
This story is pretty unique in the crowded young adult field. It uses science fiction as a backdrop, but not in a hardcore or dry way. The description of the technology and the setting doesn’t overshadow the story or the character development. The story is told from the alternating points of view of Amy and Elder. The author plunges the reader right into the action of the story—no info dumps here. Admittedly, I was a tad confused when Elder was first introduced. The plunge right into the action without context required that I pay careful attention, but it became all too clear how it tied into the story at large as the tale unfolded.
Across the Universe is a well-balanced mixture of adventure, mystery and romance. The world building is excellent. Revis has fleshed out the environment of Godspeed and the interactions of its inhabitants to a degree that enables one to visualize it easily. You. Are. There. The tension only gets greater with every turn of the page and this story had me turning the pages quickly. You'll be searching for clues and trying to figure out the answers to the mystery of the killer and his or her intent. There's a very nasty bad guy, but I'm not going to tell you who he is...You'll see...Maybe there's even more than one...Maybe...There are some surprises at the conclusion. Good luck in trying to figure it out!
There are subtle messages meandering under the surface of this story: differences among people—how much do they matter, how easily people can or can’t accept change, coming to terms with decisions made, the consequences and life’s priorities. Across the Universe ends with important questions answered, but there are plenty of places for this story to go and a lot still to be discovered. I can't wait to sink my teeth into the sequel!
Across the Universe released 1/11/11!