________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2017


All the Stars Left Behind.

Ashley Graham.
Fort Collins, CO: Entangled Teen (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2017.
321 pp., trade pbk., $13.99.
ISBN 978-1-63375-683-0.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Tara Stieglitz.

* /4



Leda turned and saw an old man behind her. Coarse, unruly gray hair framed his age-ravaged face. But his eyes were clear and bright, almost mischievous. Like the trolls in the fairy-tale books Dad used to read to her. The man looked directly at Leda, his focus intense. A slow grin stretched the wrinkled map around his mouth as he blinked. What the…? Two sets of eyelids flickered, one after the other.

Leda stumbled back into Nils.

"Whoa, you okay?" His hands closed around her shoulders. She rubbed her eyes, then stared at the old man again.

He said not a word, just went on his way down the street. Whistling a tune and swinging his arms at his sides. She could almost believe she'd imagined the eyelid thing, except his legs—they bent the wrong way when he stepped.

No. She shook her head and straightened up, moving away from Nils.
It's all in your mind. You're exhausted. That's all.

Uncle Arne called from the window, "Are you alright down there?"

Not even close. "We're going to grab something to eat, then we'll meet you in your shop."

Nils clapped his hands together and rubbed them.
"I wonder if your grandmother has any of that Scottish shortbread left."

Right. Shortbread. Not those eyes. Not those backwards legs.

What the hell did I just see?

All the Stars Left Behind, Ashley Graham's first novel, is a complicated teen romance science fiction novel about Leda who moves to a remote Norwegian island from New York after her father dies and her absentee mother declines to take her in. Once in Norway, Leda meets a cast of odd characters, who, readers quickly learn, are aliens on a mission to earth to locate a weapon that will annihilate the enemy alien race called the Woede that is currently occupying their home planet of Aurelis. The novel also reveals that Leda, herself, is this weapon. The novel follows Leda, her uncle and grandmother, the aliens from Aurelis, and a few other characters as they journey back to Aurelis to defeat the Woede.

      While the premise of the novel is interesting and holds promise, it falls victim to too many tired clichés from both teen romance and science fiction. On the teen romance side, we have characters who inexplicably fall violently and passionately in love upon first seeing each other. Leda is annoyingly vulnerable and insecure, her love-interest Roar, is impossibly handsome, overbearing and patronizingly overprotective, and, of course, there is also the requisite reason they can't be together that older, wiser characters know about but don't tell them about until much, much later. On the science fiction side, we have an alien race that is physically, technologically and socially superior to the point of perfection, aliens secretly living among humans for generations, and an intergalactic war that only a chosen one can stop.

      The novel lacks refinement. The plot is full of holes and unexplained developments, and it inelegantly moves from straight science fiction to teen romance without smoothing over the transitions. There are so many characters that, even though they are all on a space ship together, some of them don't get mentioned for chapters in a row and the reader forgets they are there until they pop up again. The overabundance of characters also means none of them get fully-fleshed out. Instead, each character seems more like a single trait personified. In an attempt to make Leda a more fully realized character, she has spina bifida and is vegan. While both of these things are frequently mentioned, neither of them ever impact the plot, and so the details end up lacking relevance.

      Overall, the concept behind All the Stars Left Behind is interesting, but the book fails due to its many plot holes, underdeveloped and annoying characters, and clunky plotting. All the Starts Left Behind is not a necessary addition to a library collection.

Not Recommended.

Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.

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