I was not initially super-keen to read Across the Universe by Beth Revis. The cover looked like a lame YA romance novel and the title was a rip-off from The Beatles. But a friend of mine had the Advanced Reader’s Copy and told me I had to check it out. I sat down to read what turned out to be a creative, interesting book that was complex, had great back-story, and showed a new take on some old romance ideas.
The spaceship Godspeed, a beast of a traveling earth biome, is on its way to a new planet. It will take 300 years to get there from Earth, and Amy (our protagonist) and her family are cryogenically frozen for the long journey. But fifty years before they are scheduled to land, Amy is mysteriously unplugged, and almost dies in the process. Foul play is suspected, and as Amy adjusts to a strange life aboard this ship, without her family to support her, she needs to try and discover who is killing people—because it keeps happening, and she’s worried her parents might be next.
Amy becomes friends with the future leader of the ship, a boy close to her age named Elder, who is fighting his own battle for freedom and individuality. With Elder’s help, they try and figure out what is happening aboard the ship, and more importantly who is behind the murders, because these disturbances could ultimately jeopardize them all.
This book was definitely not what I expected. The mystery that continued throughout the entire book was well-written, and as facts and insights are revealed, it is clear that there is even more happening beneath the surface. Revis has really mastered the art of layered plots here, and they are written seamlessly into the over-arching storyline. She alternates between Amy and Elder’s points of view, which is a nice way to get the entire story. Elder was born on the ship and knows nothing else. Even something as simple as Amy’s bright red hair is unusual to him (there are no other redheads awake on-board), and it is really interesting hearing about earth from his point of view. Amy of course is trying to figure out what the heck is going on, all the while trying to figure out a way to fit in with these strange new people who don’t entirely trust her. Having insight into both main characters is pivotal to the plot progressing, because they each know things that add to the mystery of the story.
Eldest, the leader of the ship, has instituted some strange rules during the many years of travelling. The perfect example of this is in regards to relationships. Some years prior there was a plague that wiped out part of the population of people awake on the Godspeed, so now sex is controlled to a mating season so that all generations are the same age and can be monitored better. The setting of this book is so untraditional, that it alone would make things interesting for the development of romance between the main characters, but this other aspect definitely adds some fascinating and disturbing elements.
All in all, I liked this book. Not my favorite book by any means, but I kept finding myself pleasantly surprised at the fascinating and imaginative ways the author built this world and added layers of mystery and character development. It was also a different sort of science-fiction, not agonizingly heavy on the science end—though it definitely made a strong appearance, for sure—but more about relationships and what happens to a group of people stuck with each other, and their future generations, and how they learn to adapt to this new type of life.