The Reading Shelf

I love reading books, especially Young Adult books of all kinds. I have a book reviewing blog (The Reading Shelf) that I try to update whenever I'm not reading or procrastinating on the internet.

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

Across the Universe was a mostly disappointing book for me, while its sequel, A Million Suns, vastly improved; having such different reactions to the two books made me quite nervous for the third and final book in the trilogy. Unfortunately, my worry seemed warranted and this ended up being a disappointing ending to a mostly uneven trilogy, at least to me.


My main issue with this book seemed to be co-protagonist and narrator Amy. I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately that talk about the idea that we’re tougher on female characters than male, an idea that kept popping up everytime I got frustrated and annoyed with Amy. If the roles had been reversed and Elder was the one acting the same as Amy, would I be as annoyed? I’d certainly like to think so, but I’m not ignoring the fact that the female protagonist annoyed and frustrated me while the male protagonist’s chapters tended to be more interesting to me. Regardless of her gender, though, Amy really frustrated me because she seemed very selfish. She cared way more about getting to the new world and getting her parents alive and figuring out how to live in the new world, while the “shipborns,” as they get dubbed by the “Earthborns,” mostly get ignored by her. She often has to be reminded to pay attention to them, and she rarely seems to notice that she’s being so selfish.


There’s also the racism in the book. No, author Beth Revis is not being racist – I’m not trying to say that. Instead, it’s the characters, and it’s done purposely. There are two groups (shipborns and Earthborns) who are trying to live together but are too different to do so easily. The Earthborns, including Amy’s parents (mostly her father, though), are the main prejudiced group, looking down on the shipborns, who are less violent and unuse to living on a planet rather than an enclosed ship. They laugh when the shipborns get scared of a thunderstorm (which, when you think about it, would be terrifying if you’ve never experienced one and don’t know what the hell is going on) and they visibly get nervous when some shipborns have makeshift weapons to protect themselves against the unknown dangers of the new world. I know the racism makes sense in the story, but half the time it felt like it was there just to make Amy, the only Earthborn who seems to think well of the shipborns, seem better.


Then there’s the romance. This book has a half-hearted attempt at a last-minute love triangle, but it was mostly about the epic love between Elder and Amy. In the past, I didn’t mind the romance too much, but for some reason I had trouble stomaching it this go around. It just seemed like too much, with melodramatic internal monologues about how they can’t stand the idea of being apart and that their love is so powerful. I wouldn’t call it instalove, since it has been developing over the past few books, but all of a sudden it just seemed like too much.


I was not a big fan of the ending. No spoilers, but it looked like Revis was going to do something that’s almost unthought of in a YA book, but the last chapter basically chickened out on that idea. Also, since Amy mostly frustrated me by this point, I didn’t really feel any sympathy for her when bad things happened. Sure, I felt sorry for the people involved in the various tragedies, but I didn’t feel bad for Amy when these things affected her, especially when she used that tragedy to further fuel her judgmental attitude and seemed to mostly forget about it by the last chapter.


It sounds like I really hated this book, but it honestly wasn’t that bad. Sure, there are all the things I listed, and I figured out a few (but not all) twists ahead of time, but I really was interested to figure out how this infant society was going to survive in a new world. I wanted to know how it worked and its history, as well as its future. I enjoyed Elder’s chapters for the most part (except when he was mooning over Amy or getting angry that Love-Interest-That-Obviously-Has-No-Chance was talking to or standing near Amy) and wanted this society to succeed and thrive. I wanted to know what was going on. And, because of that, this book wasn’t a total loss, although it was still a bit of a let-down to an admittedly uneven trilogy.