Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 1, 2018
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.
But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.
A retelling of a classic or a fairy tale? I am THERE! Hand it over NOW! Although I haven't read Jane Eyre, I was excited to read this book. I try to find these retellings as a way to begin bridging the gap between student interests and abilities and the classic novels themselves. I wanted to see if this novel would be of interest to a wide variety of my students. I was not disappointed.
Donne expertly crafts modern pop culture, literary references, humor, and excellent world building into a novel that would easily keep the attention of many young ladies. I wish that there had been a bit more in it for the gentlemen, but I understand that would have been difficult to do because of the nature of the original story. Most teenage boys don't want to read romantic novels, but that's not Donne's fault.
I absolutely adored Donne's world-building abilities. Creating a world off of Earth where nothing is the same as it is in reality is no easy feat. To fabricate a world so completely and with so few gaps in planning is impressive. You rock, Alexa Donne! However, there were a few parts that I struggled with. Of these, the biggest problem I had was with the growth of food. How did ships that had never grown food in the past suddenly have all of the supplies and all of the room necessary to do so? It seems that other important jobs that ship did would have to be moved off ship or at least out of the way to do so. Wouldn't this have caused other problems for the crew?
The characters were so well done that, just like real people, there were times that you loved and hated all of them for their actions. For a while, Hugo was my absolute favorite character and Stella was only OK. Then, his cowardice showed and her steadfast devotion to her morals led her through a number of difficult decisions. It was truly enlightening to read the thought process of a character who was so willing to stand strong and uphold morals that weren't very popular. I think that this will both appeal to and have a positive impact on many of Donne's teenage readers. On a more personal note, it was strange to read about a ten year old Jessa that I actually related to rather well. It's the first time that I've ever come across a character with my name which made this an even more meaningful experience.
I would be absolutely remiss in my duties as a reviewer if I didn't take a moment to talk about the romance between Hugo and Stella. I won't say too much so that I don't spoil anything. BUT WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT???? This relationship seemed to fall together too quickly with no real development between the characters before their engagement. This 'puppy love' was completely unrealistic and very hastily thrown together. Before writing my review, I gave a lot of thought to whether or not this was simply because of the way that things went in Jane Eyre. I definitely see that side, and see it in other novels written around the same time as Jane Eyre, but I think that Donne could have handled this romance better for modern girls. If she can create a whole world in space and a leading female who can think for herself, I wish she would have turned that same character into an example of a healthily developed relationship. This is probably just the teacher in me talking, but I hate seeing my students think that they have to rush into any relationship just to matter. Although this isn't how Donne presents Stella, I would have liked to see a better option presented to her readers.
Overall, I truly enjoyed this book. It was an absolute joy to read and I would recommend it to fans of science fiction and classic novels alike.