I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Two people, ninety minutes to live, and no hope of rescue.
Max and Carys are adrift in space with only ninety minutes of oxygen. With only a tether holding back the crushing silence and loneliness, they struggle to come to terms with their situation, support each other, and maybe – just maybe – get out alive. As their story unfolds, we slowly learn about their pasts and what brought them to drift in the infinite reaches of space.
Oh my god. I don’t really know what I was expecting when I picked up Hold Back the Stars, but it wasn’t this. It’s just an absolutely stunning read and I don’t really know where to start. There’s a lot that makes this book unique; it’s not just your run-of-the-mill romance or science fiction novel. The romance in the book isn’t what makes it amazing. Max and Carys aren’t characters we haven’t seen before and surely we’ve all read books featuring forbidden romances. What makes them unique and interesting as characters is their actions. Max and Carys are ordinary people who do ordinary things — this is what made the whole story so heartbreaking. I’ve seen people go through some of the things they go through, deal with the issues they deal with, and drift apart in the same way they do. Max and Carys could be anyone — they could be you or me or your best friends.
At the same time, this book isn’t just about a romance. It’s about sacrifice, struggling to conform to society’s rules and regulations, and how one small interaction can change lives. The world-building is incredible; Khan creates a version of Earth that we could actually see in the not-so-distant future, for better or worse. What I found really fascinating is that this book is not a dystopian novel — they’re not fighting against one of the evil, tyrannical governments that have been so popular in fiction the past few years. They live in a Utopia filled with happy citizens and a global government. There’s a lot of grey area here, making the book all the more captivating.
The storytelling lends itself beautifully to the full discovery of the plot. I’m not usually a fan of a dual narrative — there’s always one plot line that’s far more interesting than the other — but Hold Back the Stars doesn’t suffer from this. Their current situation is just as compelling as their pasts. I won’t spoil it, but Khan manages the twists and turns of the plot so incredibly beautifully and you just don’t know what to expect. I kept second guessing myself and going back to reread bits until the very end.