Publisher : Inkyard Press
Genre : Young Adult | Science-fiction
Page Count: 426
Synopsis : Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity?
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.(from Goodreads)
*I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange of an honest review*
CW: colonization, violence, execution, oppression, brainwashing and mind control, anxiety, panic attacks.
I’ve been pushing away writing this review for weeks now because I’m unsure of what to say. Not because the book is bad, mind you, it’s the complete opposite. I loved this book so much and it made me feel so many things that I just…don’t know how to put into words or how to properly convey those feelings and emotions it left me with, even now several weeks and books later. But I want to give it a try now because I want more people to hear about it and give it a try.
So if you know me, you know that I rarely pick up sci-fi, it just doesn’t appeal to me, spaceships and futuristic things aren’t really my thing if not laced with other things which is the case for most sci-fi, especially since the writing tends to be direct and kind of…rigid? I don’t know how else to explain it. But The Sound of Stars made me question everything I ever thought about the genre and made me want to look into it more and explore other titles. The writing is beautiful and powerful, it never fails to drive the point home with a punch and leaves you thinking about it for a while after reading it, but it also does so in such a good manner, with words weaved together so gorgeously that you take those words in with open arms.
This book is set two years after earth was invaded by this alien species called the Illori, and I really loved how much thought and depth was put into making this alien species. The world building is fantastic and done in a way in which the information trickles in just when you need it and never too much as to not overwhelm the reader. The Illori are made of two “casts”, the True Illori, who are born, and then the lab-made Illori who look like humans, are created to serve the true Illori and as such, are considered as lesser and are looked down upon. And I really loved how much detail was put into creating both of them. Not only that but there are other alien species involved, namely the Andarrans who were my favorite to read about.
The author did so many things with this book, which really impressive considering it’s not only just a little 400 pages but it’s also a standalone. She explored a lot of social issues by drawing comparisons between the current climate under alien occupation and how they treat humans and the systemic racism Black people face in our society today, as well as in the book before the invasion and everyone getting the same treatment. And although I must say that sometimes the way that was done was a little too over-explained and on the nose for me, because I do like my social commentary to be a bit more subtle and implicit, most of it was powerful and well done.
But my favorite part was hands down the fact that The Sound of Stars was a love letter to arts, especially music and books, and their role in giving people hope, bringing us together and lessening the chasm of differences between us, even if just ever so slightly. There are so many discussions around the fact that arts are a means of resistance, of revolution and they were in this society as well, because the Ilori forbade them but people still clung to them. Janelle, our main character, mainly clings to her books as a lifeline and runs a little illicit library to extend her lifeline to other people who might need it. This story has very high stakes so I was all the more impressed to see that it was still able to balance that with showing mundane day to day life events and emotions.
Janelle, or Ellie, is a demisexual biromantic fat Black teen and one of our two main characters. She’s so fierce and brave and strong, but in the most subtle ways. Her strength isn’t in big gestures or defiances, nor in being reckless and putting herself in harm’s way (debatable but anyway). Her rebellion is one that’s more subtle until she doesn’t have a choice but to run for her life. At the start of the book she has plainly lost faith in humanity, she didn’t think things could get any better and she thought that humans quite frankly deserved what came for them. Her character development, which led to her opening up her heart and mind, was slow but ultimately realistic, as people don’t change their minds with the snap of two fingers. I also how casually her disabilities (anxiety and hypothyroidism) were talked about and how they’re just parts of her that she has to accommodate to but they did not take over the book.
Then there’s Morris, our friendly local lab-made Ilori, and the dorkiest softest alien to have graced the universe. He just wants peace. Plain and simple. The way he talks is so poetic and sometimes over the top that in other circumstances it would be way too cheesy for me and make me cringe, but the contrast between him and Janelle is so stark that it was an obvious choice on the author’s part, and one that made a lot of sense. Morris is of a species that denies feelings, pretends to not have them and deems them a weakness, but the thing is, my boy here feels a lot and is so overwhelmed by these emotions because he wants them but he doesn’t know what to do with them. And seeing these feelings we’re so accustomed with described from the point of view of someone who’s barely learning to feel and embrace them was beautiful. At times, it left me thinking for a long while about the simplest things.
The ending is the only part of this book I feel is very polarizing. People are either going to love it or hate it. I, for one, loved it, because it felt to me like the only thing that would realistically make sense for this story and it left me with a sense of peace and hopefulness that I did not expect. I am 110% open to more stories set in this same universe, especially if we get to see Andarra and my favorite peaceful homies, the Andarrans.
Do I recommend?
ALL the yeses in the universe.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read The Sound of Stars? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.