Review: And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst

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January 17, 2013 by Heidi

And All the Stars by Andrea K Host book coverTitle: And All the Stars [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Andrea K. Höst [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone.
Genre: Young Adult, Sci Fi, Apocalyptic
Published: September 30th, 2012 by Andrea K. Höst
Format: E-book; 247 pages
Source: First read from author via NetGalley

Come for the apocalypse.
Stay for cupcakes.
Die for love.

Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.

None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.

Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.

In the last year or so I’ve been pushing myself to read more SciFi, but even still there’s one thing that I’ve always completely shied away from: aliens.  I just…I don’t know, it’s not my thing I guess.  I prefer my wizards and fairies and dragons, I’m not so much of the ‘take me to your leader’ ‘phone home’ crowd.  But then I was seduced by a gorgeous cover (which accurately reflects the character it portrays–huzzah!), and raving reviews by friends (knowing this was dedicated to my buddies Wendy and Flannery didn’t hurt), and I was willing to go out of my box for And All the Stars.

I am oh so glad that I did.  Höst has found that magical formula for using alien invasion to show humanity at their best that has heretofore only been seen by me in Doctor Who.  She created a completely original apocalypse and populated it with one of the best exhibitions of friendship and endurance I have had the pleasure to read.

And All the Stars throws you directly into the action, and lets the world building flow naturally rather than slamming you with info dumps.  The trade off is that for a good chunk of the book we as readers have little to no idea of what’s actually going on.  We uncover the truth in time with our characters.  Personally, I loved the mystery and the horror of uncertainty, but this may be a dealbreaker for some readers.  I did find myself blinking in confusion on occasion during action scenes and from certain world building aspects, but I was so completely taken with the players in this character-driven plot that these stumbles hardly seemed to matter.

Our story is told through the eyes of Maddie, a young artist who is separated from her family and forced to find a way to survive an alien invasion.  Caught at Ground Zero when an alien Spire rose from the ground in Sydney, Maddie finds herself more acutely affected than perhaps any other known survivor.  But Maddie does survive, and not on her own–she survives by forming friendships with other teens she would otherwise never have met.  United by fear, loss, and a need not just to survive, but to live as free beings, this group of teens bands together to form the Blue Musketeers and take on the apocalypse.

Yes, at times the Blue Musketeers were downright cheesy and idealistic, but sometimes a bit of idealism is all that rests between hope and giving up.  I loved this group of friends.  I loved knowing that most of this group would never have been friends even if they had met prior to the Spires rising from the ground, but that an event meant to divide and conquer could instead unite these young leaders with a cause.  Watching people build unexpected relationships strengthened me as a reader, and these characters in their story–it gave them something to be happy about.  Höst provides us with diversity (racial, sexual, identity, etc.) in the right way–it’s there because it exists in the real world.  The diversity also helps to show us how it is possible to come through the experiences we face in And All the Stars.

And oh those experiences.  Twists?  This book has them.  Höst managed to completely surprise me multiple times in quick succession.  This is what I love about a well-done limited perspective narrative–we really don’t see it coming if they don’t see it coming.  It’s also one of those rare stories where I love the side characters even more than those featured.  Noi, who hides her pain so well and can set her mind to planning anything, Lee who can crack a joke or deliver a stirring monologue on queue, Emily who wants so badly to be a part of something–they’re all wonderful.  But of course, the story couldn’t have been really told from any perspective but Maddie’s.  Maddie who sees the world through an artist’s eye and is willing to open her heart in a time of chaos.

At times, emotional dialog seemed to be written rather than natural…but then upon finishing I also felt this made sense for the characters involved.  Höst includes an epilogue flash forward, which I felt was unnecessary (I am one of those sick people who likes open endings), but I also feel it will satisfy many readers to know how things turn out down the road.

I laughed, I teared up, I got very angry, I fist pumped, and I even slow clapped un-ironically, and at the end of the day there isn’t much more you can ask for from a book.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Absolutely!  I’ve picked up Stray (the first book in the Touchstone trilogy), and will hopefully read all three!

Recommended for:  Perfect for those who enjoyed Doctor Who, Graffiti Moon, The Age of Miracles, Chronicleor This Is Not a Test.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I read this as a read along with my buddy Keertana.  We had an amazing discussion throughout, along with some other readers on Goodreads, if you’d like to check it out or weigh in, please do!

Get a second opinion:
Ivy Book Bindings – ” It has plot twists, sacrifice, friendships, laughter, romance, fear, hope, distrust, betrayal…it’s a perfect blend of everything and I have been rendered speechless by it.”
Belle’s Bookshelf – “The action was entertaining and there was a lot of humour, but what surprised me was how emotional And All The Stars made me feel.”
My and My Books – “…the story captured me from the first pages onwards – I felt as disorientated as Madeleine was, caught in the chaos of the initial incursion, trying to figure out what was happening and somehow survive.”

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013This review was written as part of the Aussie Women Writers Challenge

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