Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: 'There Once Were Stars' is a captivating, fun read

There Once Were Stars' is Moose Jaw author
 Melanie McFarlane's debut young adult novel.
By Lisa Goudy

From the moment you start reading 'There Once Were Stars,' you won't want to stop. 

Moose Jaw author Melanie McFarlane's debut young adult novel, published by Month9Books, is a captivating dystopian story about truth, friendship and right and wrong. With captivating characters and a sense of mystery that only deepens as the story moves on, it takes you on a journey that`ll keep you hooked one twist at a time.

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. This is the motto that keeps the serene life of the residents in Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that poisoned the world outside for four generations, intact. It's the only life Natalia Greyes, 18, has ever known as she has lived with her grandparents ever since her parents died nine years ago. She just accepted it as fact as every member of society is delegated to a specific part of the dome for a particular purpose. 

However, when Nat sees a stranger on the outside of the dome without wearing any protection from the radiation, she starts to question everything the Order has said, including about the death of her parents. As the plot thickens, she starts to wonder if there is life outside the dome and if so, what the Order is hiding. 

The novel starts off on Nat's 18th birthday and introducing the reader to her life and the world she lives in. Immediately reeling you in, the stakes of the story only increase as you read on. It doesn't take long for the action to get going and soon, just like Nat, you'll start questioning on what to believe through the twists and turns of the novel as revelations and mystery pile up until you reach a satisfying conclusion. 

Further to that, the book also has a great balance of nonstop action and a love-triangle. McFarlane does an outstanding job of character development and world building. In the beginning, Nat is a person who is a bit na├»ve as a result of her sheltered life, but it's her intelligence, her curiosity, her strength and her resolve to never give up that are inspiring to any reader. This makes her relatable, as she's not a perfect character, but it also makes her inspiring and it gives you all the more reason to root for her. 

With respect to other characters, you're never quite sure who to trust and this flip-flopping and uneasiness makes it all the more intriguing. 

With vivid descriptions of this dystopian world, it really makes the settings jump off the page. There is enough backstory to picture the world in your mind without providing so much detail that it would be overwhelming. What's more is the pacing of the novel is steady and fast and each development is logical in the grand scheme of the book. 

There are many young adult dystopian novels out there, but McFarlane's is definitely a standout. With an engaging story that takes a unique look at a world after a virus, McFarlane has created a world and an enigmatic story filled with captivating characters. 

'There Once Were Stars' is a highly entertaining and wonderful novel that knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat as the mystery unfolds. It's a fantastic nonstop thrill ride from start to finish that keeps you thirsty for more by the time you reach the end.

*** This review also appeared in the May 25, 2016 edition of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald weekly publication, UnCut.

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