Review: Defy the Stars

Claudia Gray takes us back to the stars except this time, they’re a little bit closer and in our future instead of a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away. “Defy the Stars” is the story of Noemi Vidal, a teenage soldier who’s preparing to embark on a suicide mission that could save her people, and Abel, a one-of-a-kind mech prototype who’s been stranded alone aboard a ship for decades. Thrown together by chance, the pair embark on an adventure that takes them across the galaxy as Noemi tries to get home in time for her mission and Abel’s programming leaves him with no choice but to help her… until it’s more than just programming that keeps him on her side.

“Defy the Stars” takes our world, leaps forward several centuries in the future, and wonders where we might be once we live on planets aside from Earth. It considers what life for us could be like one day. It ponders what you might do when what you thought was right is upended. And it questions what it means to be human, to be alive, and to have a soul. There’s a bit of a love story, yes, but it’s done so subtly and builds upon the growing trust and friendship between the two characters that the reader, like Abel and Noemi, might not quite realize where it’s leading until they do. “Defy the Stars” manages to be both a very personal story about very likable main characters and a larger story about the galaxy as a whole.

One of the particularly neat things Gray does within the novel is provide a different view on religion in the far future. Usually, religious groups in these sorts of books tend to be blandly cult-like with the occasional minor variation in execution. Gray instead treats the Earth religions with respect and brings them forward in a perfectly logical manner. The Second Catholic Church rang particularly true as something that might happen if humans were to live on other planets.

Gray also pays particular attention to ensuring diversity amongst her cast. Noemi is biracial (South American-East Asian) and this is definitely not a book where you struggle to name more than two female characters. In fact, you’ll probably even run out of fingers. What’s particularly nice is how the characters are all fully realized and don’t just check a box although that should be surprising to approximately no one who has ever read anything Claudia Gray has ever written.

“Defy the Stars” is an engaging story that approaches what could have easily been just a well-treaded plot line in a fresh way. The characters (both human and mech) feel real, the world is fascinating to explore, and Claudia Gray keeps proving to us that Young Adult literature is indeed for everyone. “Defy the Stars” gets a solid 8/10 along with a strong recommendation.  

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