02 October 2010

Book Review

Wow.  Can you imagine living life on a ship in the middle of the universe, knowing that you could only breathe recycled air forever and live with a fake sun that is just really a bulb in the middle of manufactured and synthetic fields?  Is that really living?


I think this word over and over again throughout the reading of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis.  A Young Adult novel, it is literally a murder mystery in space, in a universe that stretches on and on, infinite and vast. And how incredibly lonely it is when stuck on a ship traveling in it.

Amy is sixteen-years-old and lives with her parents on our Earth.  Her parents are gifted, a talented genetic scientist is her mother, and her father is a brilliant military tactician.  They are essential to a new world that 100 other gifted members of society are selected to make a journey to Centauri-Earth, a world where oxygen and water samples have returned successfully, necessary for human survival.  These people will be cryogenically frozen to journey 300 years to this new world to help begin life on that planet.

But, Amy is not essential to this new planet.  She's just a kid, but is permitted to go because of her parents, and she is frozen into the 300 year sleep along with her parents on the ship called Godspeed.

Fifty years before the intended arrival to this new world, Amy awakes when she is unplugged and separated from her cryo-haven, surviving an attempted murder -- and no one knows who did it.  Forced with the reality that she is now living in a small city that exists on the metal ship, where everyone awakens to a fake sun and drinks recycled water, Amy bonds with Elder, also sixteen. This new life is all that she will now have and she is also awake before her parents. She's now alone. Elder is next in line to lead the ship after the current aging leader, known as Eldest, passes on. But, now amidst the safety of a world which doesn't know questions and chaos, someone is starting to kill again, and they're targeting the frozen people hidden in a ship that only a few select people know about.

I was lucky to score an Advance Reader's Copy at the SIBA Trade Show in Daytona Beach last weekend, part of my loot of 47 books. The release date for this book is January 2011, and color me giddy with excitement for how this book will be received by everyone.  It has all of the elements that all murder mysteries need, which completely satiated my desire for a good "whodunit," all amidst the realities of space and the cage of Godspeed.

I could not put the book down, and my eyes were growing heavy with sleep late into the night as I kept telling myself "just one more page."  Each chapter switches between Amy's and Elder's perspective, allowing you to experience each of their own stories.  Normally, I tend to like one character more than another when chapters switch like that and want to hurry to get to the next chapter, but not with this one.  As each chapter switched characters, I was excited, ready to find out more and uncover the mystery that each of them were facing.

I cannot tell you more about the plot without giving anything away - I can only tell you that I loved this book, this story with characters so real and interesting and engaging.  I was drawn into their angst, their confusions, and the mystery that they were trying to solve. There is even more to this story, discussions of class systems, prejudice, and other social issues that were fascinating. I admit that I sit on the edge of my seat wishing for 2011 to pass quickly so that I can get my hands all over Book Two -- oh, yes, this is a series!  Yes, yes, yes!

I was ecstatic to get a chance to connect with Beth Revis, and she was so wonderful to do an interview - which includes advice for all aspiring writers. I'd like to thank her for taking the time to do the interview!

Click here to visit the book's site and to read the amazing first chapter of Across the Universe.
Click here to visit the author's website.
Click here to visit the author's blog.

Interview with the Author

Beth Revis wrote her first books as a student in classrooms, when the professors at NC State University did not hold her interest and she jotted down stories instead of taking notes. Currently a teacher herself, Beth tries to make her classes a bit more entertaining as she explores Greek gods, samurais, and epic poetry with her high school World Literature students. In addition to pointing out dramatic irony in Oedipus Rex to a gaggle of sixteen-year-olds, Beth also writes science fiction and fantasy novels for teens. Her debut novel, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, will be published by Razorbill/Penguin in Spring 2011. Beth is represented by Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House.

An active member of 
SCBWI and several critique groups, Beth also runs a blog on writing. Beth lives in rural North Carolina with her husband and her dog, where she splits her time between writing lesson plans, writing stories, and writing up plans to travel somewhere new.

As this is your debut novel, can you tell us how you landed the book deal?
The old-fashioned way. I cold-queried until I found an agent, the agent sent it to publishers. There's no magic formula--I just queried until I hit gold.

What was your inspiration for Across the Universe?
Actually--I wrote the book for the twist at the end. The entire book revolved around that one big twist at the end. But I'll add that just like in Agatha Christie's MOUSETRAP, I was aiming to create a setting where the mystery was contained--whoever the murderer is, he (or she!) has to be someone on the ship...

Which authors do you feel helped to shape your writing? 
I'd say Jeanne du Prau's CITY OF EMBER and Agatha Christie's MOUSETRAP helped me determine the setting. Megan Whalen Turner's THE THIEF also had a great twist at the end, something I aspired for. Mary Pearson's THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX showed me that sci fi doesn't have to be filled with science. And Robin McKinley's THE HERO AND THE CROWN has the most perfectly written scene I've ever read--if anyone can teach me about language, it's her.

How did you find the time to fit in writing a book while working a regular job and balancing life?
As I wrote ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I was a full time teacher, and I did a majority of the writing while working (I revised during the summer break). This mean that, basically, I wrote during every holiday, on the weekends, and whenever else I had a chance. I wrote massive numbers of words in very short amount of time because I knew I couldn't be one of those authors who wrote every day. Teaching sucks the life out of you--in a good way, don't get me wrong--but it's very emotionally draining, and it's hard to do anything after a day of planning, teaching, grading, counseling, helping everyone else out until you can't even help yourself. So whenever I could break from teaching, I wrote. I did a lot of planning in the car ride to and from work, and I watched very little TV.

What advice do you have for new authors when trying to get the word out on their book?
Every author, whether published or not--if you're going to be a professional in the business--at the very least, you need a professional website. Something short and static that basically has up to date information on you and your work. This doesn't have to be over the top or expensive, but it should be there. You should also have a professional web address (yourname.com) and a professional email address (yourname@whatever.com). 
Beyond that, just do what you're comfortable with. You don't *have* to blog or tweet or Facebook or whatever. If you want to, fine. Personally, I like blogging and tweeting. But I do it because I enjoy it. If you don't, no one cares if you don't have an online presence.
And, if you're not published, limit what you put online. I'm not saying someone's going to steal your idea if you post your synopsis. I'm saying that this book you're in love with now, may not be what you're in love with later, and you don't want to have three years of posts about a book you come to hate, or are embarrassed about, or that you realize later just isn't very professional. Don't post more than the first chapter online, don't make up your own book cover and post it, don't make book trailers for a book that's not published. Focus on writing first--and after the first book's done, focus on writing the second one.

What's next for you?
I'm currently in the midst of finishing Book 2 of the Across the Universe trilogy. Once I finish it, I'm sending it to some readers, then working on promoting Book 1--there's going to be some pretty awesome contests on my blog up once a month until the release in January!

One last question, since this so needs to be a movie -- who would you pick to play Amy and Elder?
For Amy, I would so pick the Castle's daughter on the ABC show, CASTLE. She's got the red hair and pale skin that Amy has, and she's who I thought of. (http://pics.livejournal.com/ab_stract/pic/0000k9h2/s320x240) But I wouldn't say no to Emma Stone, either--she's got the attitude.

For Elder, I'm not sure. Maybe an unknown actor. It would need to be someone multi-ethnic or with the right features--dark skin, almond eyes, fat lips, high cheekbones. Perhaps a young Wilmer Valderrama? (http://www.tv.com/wilmer-valderrama/person/1888/summary.html)

Happy Reading!

Coffee and a Book Chick


  1. You made it?
    I'm so envious.
    I should have gone.

    This sounds amazing!

  2. If you don't mind my asking, what part of Florida do you reside in?

    I'm in NF now but I use to live in Central :)

  3. This sounds like a good read. Great review.

  4. Holy cow, you got that book read fast! I've been excited about it ever since I heard the author read at SIBA. I loved the interview!

  5. Juju at Tales of Whimsey.com -- The SIBA Trade Show was fantastic! So many incredible authors there, like Beth Revis -- you must go next year, it's going to be in Charleston, SC! I live about 8 minutes or so from Neptune Beach in Jacksonville -- what about you??

    Yvette -- Thanks! And it is a fabulous book! You must read it -- let me know what you think!!

    bermudaonion -- It's such a great read, I knew I would like it based off of the first chapter, but I had no idea how much I would get so caught up in it -- I can't wait to hear what you think about it when you read it, too -- I really enjoyed it!

  6. Okay, another one for the pile. That's an intriguing plot for sure.

  7. BookQuoter -- Oh, yes; definitely another one for the growing bookshelves! Our To Be Read pile considerably grows with all of these fantastic stories out there, doesn't it? This one will definitely keep you turning the pages! :)

  8. Ooh, it sounds different...in a good way! I love that it's set on a spaceship.

  9. Well I know there was alot of buzz about this book at SIBA. Man you are quick! So glad to hear it holds up!

  10. This sounds great! Although at first I thought it was the book on which that Julie Taymor film Across the Universe was based, and I almost didn't bother reading the review. I'm glad I did!

  11. Hi I dropped by from Kittie's blog and I am glad I did. The book sounds great. Only bad part having to wait until January to read it.

  12. This comment is completely unrelated to your review (which I enjoyed, btw) but if you haven't already you've got to see the movie across the universe!

  13. Thanks for reviewing this novel and the interview. I can't wait for this one to come out. I love knowing who the author would choose to play her characters. That will really help me visualize these characters when I finally get my paws on this one!

  14. softdrink -- It is a very good read, and the spaceship part is just fantastic! Very well written!

    Sandy -- It definitely does, I'll be looking out for your thoughts on it, too!

    Jenny -- I didn't know about the same titles, just looked it up -- wow, totally different story lines, huh?! I think I like this book much better than the looks of that other movie!

    There's Just Life -- Yes, waiting until January is the tough part, but I can assure you -- well worth the wait!

    Brenna -- I looked up the movie with the same title, but that came out around 2007. Definitely not the same as this book! I think Beth Revis' book is more up my alley!

    anjohnston -- I really ejoyed hearing her insight into who she would pick; it makes it even more fun as you read the book!

  15. I got the chance to hear Beth read a bit of this book at SIBA with Kathy, and I have to tell you, I was totally hooked. It does sound like a really great read, and I am really looking forward to it. My daughter actually tried to snag this one immediately, but my son grabbed it first! I will have to let you know what I think of it. And how cool is it that you got a chance to interview Beth? Very, very cool! Great review, Natalie!

  16. Zibilee at Raging Bibliomania! -- I totally wish I could have been there to hear this read at SIBA! Argh! How funny that your kids are trying to snag it from each other to read it! :) And yes, Beth was incredibly gracious to do a review -- she was awesome!

  17. I just wanted to say thank you for reviewing the book and doing the interview :)

  18. Beth!--Thank you SO MUCH -- I sooo can't wait for Book Two!! And thank you for swinging by my site!!

  19. fantastic interview and review!!! I have a copy of the book too and cannot wait to get a chance to read it...there were so many amazing ones that I came home with that it's so hard to choose which one to read next!

  20. Love the sound of this book - want to read it now, specially as it seems it's got a bid of different sci-fi chunks thrown in together - something like Futurama meets Sunshine or something?

    Thanks for the review.

  21. Beth was there and I missed that? *head slap* I'm in Tally these days and moving to KY this summer. I've had a crazy couple years ;)