Book Review: Hold Back The Stars by Katie Khan

This sci-fi love story is well written and beautiful. The ending made me cry, but then I’m also not sure if I liked how it ended. Spoilers are minimal.

Carys and Max are 2 people living in a society that is so different from our own. It’s set in the future where war, over what I believe is race/national identity has destroyed the world we know now. So the solution was living in rotations. People live separately, and every couple of years will be moved around to experience all parts of the world, with lots of different people. At 35 you can then start to try and settle down if you wish, the governments having decided that at this age you are able to have children with a partner and make it last. Until you put your own children in rotation themselves.

This idea is beautiful. I love that people have no national identity, not really, because they all talk over dinner about their life experiences – the jobs they do, the people they meet and the places they go to. It’s every person serious wanderlust. They learn different languages, and because they aren’t distracted by family or much other drama they work hard at what they do, meaning humans are now developing at fast rates.

However, because they can never stay in one place very long, they can’t really form connections with other people. They can meet on the weekends if they have friends in different parts of the world, but it’s difficult to form connections with people when you know in a few years you’ll have to start all over again. The family you were born with of course you can still see, but most people don’t seem to see their family all that often. The society set up is that you are independent, living for yourself. Which is beautiful, but it is also extremely sad.

This is only the backstory of the world that Carys and Max live in.

The story is really about their love, how they found each other, their trials and tribulations, and how deeply they love one another. It takes you on the journey of their love whilst it flips back to their current situation – stranded in space, and they only have 90minutes of oxygen left before they die, together, in space.

The premises for this book is great. It’s well thought out, and it doesn’t seem like a completely unrealistic future for us. Racism and nationalism being 2 things that just aren’t present in the book because you can’t say how great your country is if you don’t live there all that often, and your friends and colleagues are all from different places. Everyone just learns about the world, without taking up unnecessary pride in where they’ve been or where they initially come from.

But it also made me slightly sad. Without being able to connect to the world they live in, made they seem lonely. It was beautiful that certain issues didn’t exist, but it was also sad because love becomes taboo. If you’re in love, you’re not entirely living for yourself, therefore you aren’t bowing down to society’s ideals and people don’t understand it.

Max and Carys are 2 people with different ideas of love and it’s consequences. Max sleeps around, feeling nothing for the people he sleeps with and yet still yearns for that deep connection with someone, as he certainly doesn’t have that with his parents, who put him in to the rotation when he wasn’t even a teenager.

Carys however seems to still have a connection with her mother. She is less enthused by the rotation system, but thrives career wise in it. And she makes a real effort to make friendships and connections with those around her.

Max and Carys fall in love, despite Max not being sure if he is allowed to love her. He then has to move away for rotation much before Carys does, but they still keep in touch and try to see each other at weekends.

Max behaves awfully in it. I found Max desperately unlikeable through a lot of the book, just because of some of the crappy things he does to Carys. His actions make sense, he was brought up in rotation, and really wants to believe in the ideals of just living for yourself. However, its still horrible to read him being so hot and cold with Carys. She wants love and respect, and keeps their relationship a secret but isn’t ashamed of it. Max is ashamed of how he feels because it’s not what he was brought up to believe should happen when you’re not ‘old enough’.

Whilst we learn of their love story Carys and Max are fighting for their lives. Each giving up and working as best they can to make it back alive. Each time they fail, they prop each other up and try something new.

The end was confusing to me. I found it a little unsatisfying, but I thought it was original to say the least.

I would give this book a 3/5. The idea was great, but I think I love the backstory of the world more than I could connect with the 2 main characters. Their love story was lacking from me, but I like that idea of their love not being forbidden, but taboo in a world where you live for yourself.

Beautifully written, and well thought out plot. Just not sure if I fell in love with the love story.



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