Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow ARC Review: In Which A Black Girl Helps Save the World

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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.

* A special thanks to the publisher for this review copy*
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The Sound of Stars took me through a plethora of emotions, most of which always seemed outside my grasp.

Janelle Baker is a human with an inordinate passion for books. But the world has been taken over by the Illori, a non-human life force. Under their dominion, books are forbidden, as well as anything remotely artistic. Possession of these items resulted in infractions that ultimately led to death. Morris is a lab-made Illori, a disgrace to his family because of his ability to feel, and his love of music. Janelle and Morris have similar missions, but it takes a missing book to bring their worlds crashing together.

Together, Janelle and Morris are the perfect story and the sweetest song.

Without being unnecessarily verbose, I rather enjoyed this book. The world-building is chef's kiss. It's fleshed out and well-written. The reader will understand the world they're being presented, and just as easily able to decipher how it all works.

Besides the world-building, the musical and literary elements parsed throughout the story were heart-warming and engaging. As a reader, the purpose behind the lyrics and songs might seem unclear initially. Once it's explained, it adds another layer of enjoyment to the story. It showed the dedication of the author to tell an authentic story.

The one thing that I could note as a negative, and it feels weird to say, are some moments where the MC, Janelle, pointed out the discrimination against Black people from the "previous" world. In a lot of the instances, it helped to build on the backstory of the heroine. In others, it seemed a rant that didn't ground itself into the story the way they intended it. As a Black woman, this is not something I want to note as a negative, or a dislike, but it's worth noting for this review. Racism is a tough thing to experience, let alone dictate, but Dow does a fairly good job of balancing it mostly.

There is romance in the book, and though I wouldn't note this book as wholly romance, the love that eventually blooms propel the story in new directions. It also later defines the character's growth and the overall plot.

As a whole, it is a great YA that kept me completely enthralled from beginning to end. It's an outstanding debut and one I would recommend. 
I didn't see anywhere that this would be a series, but the ending left a lot of questions begging to be answered. So, I hope there's more.

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