I first heard about Katie Khan's Hold Back The Stars (Doubleday, releases January 26th) in autumn of last year. I spotted the beautiful cover on twitter (it's so pretty and I am constantly a sucker for a blue-and-yellow combination). I tweeted to the publisher and was lucky enough to receive a copy to review, and it wound up being my final read of 2016.
And man, what a way to finish.
Part sci-fi, part YA, part romance, this is beautiful, well-crafted fiction at its very best, and despite sneaking in at the very close of the year, it's firmly one of my favourite reads of 2016, and I think it's going to be an absolute smash in 2017.
Max and Carys are floating far above the earth too far away from their spacecraft to reach it safely. With just 90 minutes of air left, you are immediately drawn into their predicament, and left wondering whether they will make it back to their ship, and home to Earth. My heart was with them as they attempted to make it back.
An Earth, by the way, which looks little like the planet we now inhabit. After a series of disasters and conflicts, this near-future Earth is a planet scarred by its past, and a new kind of civilisation has sprung up - elements of which fell familiar and others which felt new and alien. The construction of this new way of life read a little like the scene setting of the Hunger Games for me - Khan skillfully weaves a new way of life which still feels like it relates to our current one. The tidbits of information we read about different locations really helped to conjure up where the new places had once been on our map.
Max and Carys are both well-drawn, interesting, flawed and multi-dimensional characters. Neither is pure hero or pure antihero, and their relationship, told in flashbacks which alternate with the present action as they float in the darkness of space reads as a real relationship, full of love, hope, worry and potential. You can see why they've got to this place. I also loved that Carys was the science whizz!
I enjoyed the whole book, but must give particular praise to the barnstorming final third, which made me cry, left me guessing, and took me to places I wasn't expecting. I tore through the final section and parts of it are flashing up in my memory often since I finished this book. Over on goodreads I gave Hold Back The Stars 5 out of 5 stars - this is charming, moving, entertaining fiction.
It's also much beloved by tiny tortoiseshell cats....
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.