While I don’t often pan a book publicly, especially when it’s an author I love, I’m feeling a little blind-sided by Chasing the Stars. I have read just about everything Malorie Blackman has written; I even wrote a major paper on her for my Masters programme. Her picture books are great fun, and Noughts and Crosses has been a mainstay of my grade 10 English curriculum for years. So I think part of my determination to finish this book came from my disbelief that Blackman had actually written it. It was the same sort of feeling I had when I read Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling; only my commitment to the author and the feeling I owed her something for past joys, kept me reading to the end.
Chasing the Stars is toted as Othello in space. Now I didn’t know this until I got half way through and decided to check out GoodReads to see if anyone else was hating on it as I was. Once I knew that I could play the “which character represents which character” game. That made it slightly more interesting but I still continued to skim from about midway to the end.
The novel tells the story of Olivia and her brother Aidan who are on their way back to Earth three years after a virus wipes out everyone else on their ship. Our do-gooder captain stops to risk her life to save a colony being attacked by the evil Mazon race. They manage to save a number of the colonists, and Olivia is faced with a new community on her ship after being alone for three years. An interesting premise and one I was enjoying until page 54 when Nathan came on the scene and Olivia was reduced to a hormonal teenager complete with such worldly observations as “Whoa! He was gorgeous”. Yes, explanation point. From this point on, our fearless leader is constantly “flushing” and “feeling the heat rise in her face”. Okay, fine. I can deal with the attraction. She is eighteen and has been alone and hormonal for three years. And yes it is young adult and romance, I’m fine with that; Noughts and Crosses is a romance but it’s so much more as well. This book is not.
Blackman insults her readers when she has Olivia and Nathan fall in love and get married within days of meeting each other. While I understand the novel is aimed at a teen audience, who may not be as jaded as I, even a teen audience needs more of a build up to their “Romeo and Juliet” scenarios. Othello and Desdemona worked because they were married and established as a couple for some time before the play started. Having Olivia and Nathan meet and marry in the first third of the novel felt forced and as a reader I was apathetic after that.
Following their “joining” Olivia and Nathan are challenged by the “green-eyed monster”, leaving them to behave even more out of character. Nathan goes from loving to cold and angry within pages and Olivia loses all the common sense she must have needed to captain the Aidan. There is a murder mystery subplot and hints of some interesting characters but both were under-developed. The story is told in alternating view points between Olivia and Nathan which got confusing at times, even with the different font. Olivia’s brother Aidan was probably the one redeeming character. I thoroughly enjoyed him but that’s not surprising as I also adore Iago in Othello, which appeared to be Aidan’s role.
I scanned through to the end to make sure my guess at the “twist” was right and to fulfill my duty as a Blackman fan. Ultimately, I am compelled to reread Noughts and Crosses and try to pretend Chasing the Stars was all just a bad dream.
If you have yet to read Noughts and Crosses I suggest you get on that right away.