We all have that one genre that we actively avoid reading. Some people don’t like WW2 novels, some are scared of high fantasy, and others would rather die than read a horror story.
Me? I don’t like YA romance. It both annoys me and creeps me out. Always has, probably always will.
But when Simon brought me back an ARC of Starflight by Melissa Landers from the 2015 Comic-Con, I didn’t question. I just thought, “Oooh, free book, pretty cover. Sweet,” and started reading.
I didn’t realize it fell into the YA sci-fi romance genre. I saw a space ship on the cover and that was enough for me. Perhaps I should have read the back cover or noticed the purplish, romantic hue of the title. But I didn’t.
And it’s probably a good thing, too, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy parts of the story as much as I did. Sure, it had YA romance. But it also had spaceships and space pirates. Space. Pirates. That helped to balance out the romance aspect:
The outer realm. It’s lawless and a magnet for all kinds of criminals and outcasts. But it’s the only place that will accept Solara Brooks, a 17-year-old girl with felony tattoos across her knuckles. In the outer realm, she can get a fresh start, she can be admired for her skills as a mechanic rather than shunned for mistakes she made in the past.
But traveling off-world is expensive, and the only way she can get to the outer realm is by indenturing herself in exchange for passage. This is something Solara is prepared to do. What she is not prepared for, however, is to be indentured by Doran Spaulding, a rich, spoiled boy who was largely responsible for making high school a living hell for her. She hates his guts and he hates hers, but they are thrown together when Doran is framed for conspiracy back on Earth.
Now, in order to escape the authorities, Doran must pose as Solara’s servant as they board the Banshee, a ship with an eccentric, and perhaps illegal, crew. Of course this doesn’t really improve Doran and Solara’s relationship.
But with the Banshee’s dangerous enemies tracking them down, Solara and Doran must put aside their difference and join forces in order to protect the ship and crew that they have come to view as family.
Starflight’s official release date was 02/16/16. Apparently, Melissa Landers is kind of a big deal in the YA sci-fi romance genre, also something I didn’t know when I started reading her book. She’s published by Hyperion, a Disney publishing house (because of course Disney has a publishing house. Disney has everything).
Starflight is soft sci-fi, meaning that science doesn’t really play a large role in this book, a fairly normal occurrence when sci-fi and romance are mixed together.
The writing is solid, the dialogue witty, and the plot pacing fast and steady. The side characters are actually quite brilliant and well-developed: from a crew member who has kleptomania to a young girl who may or may not be royalty.
Oh, and there was tea on the spaceship. Tea. 10 points if you understand why that’s funny.
I’m fairly impressed with Solara’s characterization. Here we have a female character who has skills, guts, and can take care of herself. But she’s not a complete jerk and she isn’t ridiculously self-reliant. She has some flaws, such as being self-conscious of her social status (poor orphan) and being afraid of the possibility that she might not be able to make it in the rough outer realm.
Unfortunately, it would seem that Landers gave all of the good traits to Solara, leaving Doran short-changed. He came across as spoiled, annoying, and bad-mannered. He did develop out of these traits somewhat, but too quickly and for no concrete reason.
Which is not only annoying, but made worse by the fact that Doran and Solara end up together. Sure, he’s rich and cute and is attracted to her, but his sudden niceness shouldn’t make up for the fact that he tortured her in high school. What kind of message does that send?
That being said, if you (unlike me) are a fan of “hate-turns-to-love” romances, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy Doran and Solara as a couple.
Following the usual mode of YA-speak, the dialogue between Solara and Doran (and pretty much every other character) was witty and rapid-fire. Lander’s sense of humor shows itself in other ways, as well. The Banshee crew is forever getting into one shenanigan after the other, from run-ins with space pirates to accidentally consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms.
While highly entertaining, both the plot and the back-and-forth banter between characters felt very cliché. Many of the plot twists were predictable. It was one of those book that was funny, well-written, and had some decent character arcs, but just felt somehow empty. It’s a snarky space romance with the go-to themes of redemption and finding where you belong….And that’s about it.
But maybe that’s okay. If you’re looking for a book to help you relax and smile and be entertained, then Starflight is a go. But if you’re wanting a thought-provoking story or a unique plot, then look elsewhere.
Are you a fan of Melissa Landers? What do you think of this book versus her Alienated series? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Hannah Heath – bookworm and author