Imagine a Star Trek-like story with a huge spaceship traveling across the galaxy in search of a new world. Now throw in a couple of teenagers and some frozen parents, and you’ve got Across the Universe by Beth Revis.
Revis first introduces us to Amy, as she and her parents are about to be frozen for their journey through space. But before thrusting us into the future and deep in to space, Revis presents a highly detailed and frightening experience of being cryogenically frozen. The scene is detailed, a little scary, and pretty disgusting.
Across the Universe alternates between the perspectives of Amy and Elder. Both are the only teenagers aboard the spaceship Godspeed after Amy is prematurely woken from her frozen state. Elder is in training to be leader of the people who live on the ship, and he is beginning to question the teachings of his mentor, Eldest.
When Amy and Elder meet, life aboard the ship starts to change rapidly. Soon, they are searching for a killer and uncovering the secrets of those around them.
I was drawn in to this book from the very first page, as Revis describes the disturbing process of being cryogenically frozen. But then, I found myself initially confused at the relationship between Eldest and Elder, and why the author chose to name them so similarly. I also had trouble with the alternating perspectives and trying to remember whose point of view was describing each chapter. But I also appreciate this unique style of writing.
What I took away from this story are thoughts and ideas about how we live as humans and how we can hope to survive. There were a lot of cool techno gadgets and references to super space technology throughout the book, but I was able to see beyond these things and see the people.
What I have found in many of these “dystopian” novels is that the overriding theme is one of choice – choice that is taken away and choice that is in the hands of someone else. The crew members on the spaceship Godspeed are injected with personality traits, they are drinking hormone-filled water, and they are forced to procreate at acceptable intervals.
All of their personal choices are taken away in hopes that the human race will at the very least survive – because they are the only ones left. Do we really want to be zombie-like creatures with no personal freedom, even if that is the only way that anyone will survive?
I like teen books like this because they have social issues buried beneath the surface of the story. Underneath the technology and the futuristic setting of Across the Universe we find people struggling with life issues and questioning their surroundings.
It gives us an opportunity to open the door with teenagers to discuss things like this in our everyday world and to wonder what our lives would be like if just one or two things had gone a little differently.
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Read the first chapter and more reviews at the author's website.
About the Author
Megan Garrett is the librarian at the Sugar Creek Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. She also writes book reviews for the Independence Examiner newspaper.