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Young Adult Fiction 133
interesting premise
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THE STARS BETWEEN US is a YA sci-fi/fantasy about wealth and socioeconomic disparity. Vika is working at a local bar and living in a tiny apartment with her family on the poor planet of Philomenus. Since she was little, she has had a wealthy benefactor checking in on her for mysterious reasons. Now, she learns that this was actually a billionaire from the wealthy neighboring planet of Pluotos, who has died and stated in his will that his son can only inherit if he marries her. They have never met, and now, Vika could become a billionaire, which is life-changing.

That is, until the son, Leo, is on a ship that explodes. Now, Vika should go back to just being another poor girl. However, the people next in line to inherit have decided to bring her into their lives and whisk her away to Pluotos with them. They have an employee, Sky, who recently moved in to Vika's town housing building and for whom she does not care, thinking he is kind of strange and creepy.

This glittering world begins to become dangerous when anyone in line to the Chapin fortune seems to be in danger, including Vika.

What I loved: This world was really fascinating, with the planet colonization and interstellar travel that appear to be happening. There are some really great themes around poverty, wealth disparity, socioeconomic inequality, and the ways that sudden wealth can change a life for good and for ill. Vika is struggling with her morality and financial future as she considers what she has and what she wants when massive wealth comes within her grasp.

What left me wanting more: The world-building was really lacking, as we do not know much about how these worlds came to be or why the PLF exists and why they are targeted (it seems to be a charity organization but also considered the cause of the ship explosion). The book really spends most time in Vika's head, with some interludes from Sky and unnamed characters. Vika is infinitely selfish at first, brushing off her family in a way that felt overly cruel at times and the people around her and feeling owed by the world for being lovely and chosen. I feel like these characteristics could have been overlooked if she had more depth and readers could get further into her head, but as is, it feels very shallow. Her mission soon becomes finding wealth and brushing off any suitors that do not have it. While this could be understandable considering her history of poverty (though while having a tutor and resources from her mysterious benefactor), it was so single-minded that it was hard to really buy into.

The romance was similarly hard to believe. The interactions that led to the one-sided love and pining were so shallow that it was hard to appreciate or believe in. Likewise, once things begin to change, it still felt like insta-love, because they are pretty people. I think getting more interactions and depth of conversation would have helped to buy into this, instead of it feeling so forced.

This could have been overcome by a great mystery and shocking reveals. However. the story was really predictable. I guessed the villain the first time we met them, which was really early in the story. The other big twist was also pretty easy to anticipate, and I would have liked to have felt more surprised about it all.

Final verdict: Overall, THE STARS BETWEEN US features an intriguing world/premise but was challenging without further world-building, character understanding, or a good mystery or romance to sink into.
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