Saturday, 10 February 2018

Hold Back the Stars


Book Title: Hold Back the Stars
Author: Katie Khan
Date Started: February 5th 2018
Date Completed: February 10th 2018
Genres: Romance, Sci-Fi
Quality Rating: Three Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Star
Final Rating: Three stars

◆ Thanks to Netgalley for this ebook for review ◆

Hold Back the Stars wasn't my usual genre - in fact, romance and sci-fi are probably my two worst genres for novels. But, I'd had a personal recommendation and a review copy so I was open to trying it. In the end, it was what I expected and not. I enjoyed it far more than I expected to, but there were just a few things that irked me to the point where I couldn't focus anymore.

I think a selling point for this book is its worldbuilding. As much as it's set-out as a contemporary novel, there are some really interesting aspects of the world that influence the story. There's been a dystopian war, but now there is 'utopia' in Europia, even if America and the Middle East are completely screwed. Surprisingly, this utopia is actually quite believable; people have jobs, families, friends and entertainment like we do today. With one difference: you can't settle down as a family until midlife (around 30?). Now, this seems logical to me when it's explained: the idea is that you have time where you have to focus on yourself and contribute to the community to keep utopia afloat before you start to focus on starting a family. Which isn't to say that you aren't allowed to have relationships when you're younger - in fact there are multiple occasions on which the protagonists are told that they aren't going to be punished for having a relationship, it's just going to be frowned upon and they won't be allowed to officially settle. I think a reason why I struggled with this book towards the end is that fact that this is the main emotional conflict; there's action, and there are smaller storylines, but the primary conflict is this Couples Rule. I can understand the emotional strain of such a situation, but this rule is made out to be evil - as are the people that believe in it - and that made no sense to me. If those in favour of it hadn't been so typecast as evil there may have been a grey area I was more inclined to believe, but it was Max and Carys against the world over this logical, if a little harsh rule. It was hard to get behind.

This was a big thing to me because at the start of this book I was completely sold. Much to my surprise, I was won over by the sweet characters, funny interactions and promising universe. Then suddenly near the mid-point (I can tell you it was exactly at the beach scene), things started to irk me. I don't know whether they weren't there to start with or I just didn't notice them, but suddenly there were tiny details popping up everywhere that annoyed me. Little mistakes, silly little choices, minute characteristics. Alone they wouldn't have bothered me, but things start to collect when they're dotted everywhere. I was upset because I was rooting for this book.

And then we reached the end, and I have only one question: what was the point of that? Not the book as a whole, but the way this story was finished. It's a massive spoiler, but for those who have read the book, you will know exactly what I'm talking about and I just don't understand. The author covered all of her bases, literally. With all those little things beforehand, that was the final straw to make me stop rooting for it.

Most negative reviews I've come across of Hold Back the Stars centre around the fact there's too much romance. I knew going in it was more of a romance than a science fiction story, so I didn't mind it so much. And I've read far worse love stories with far less developed characters. The romance wasn't the problem. The issue for me was that the author made some choices I just don't understand that compromised a good, solid, enjoyable story. Why those decisions that just stick out like a sore thumb? I don't know, but it was a shame they took away from my enjoyment considering I fell in love with it to start with.

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