ARC Review: “From a Distant Star” by Karen McQuestion

ARC Review: “From a Distant Star” by Karen McQuestionFrom a Distant Star by Karen McQuestion
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Skyscape on 05/19/15
Format: eARC
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Seventeen-year-old Emma was the only one who hadn’t given up on her boyfriend, Lucas. Everyone else—his family, his friends, his doctors—believed that any moment could be his last. So when Lucas miraculously returns from the brink of death, Emma thinks her prayers have been answered.

As the surprised town rejoices, Emma begins to question whether Lucas is the same boy she’s always known. When she finds an unidentifiable object on his family’s farm—and government agents come to claim it—she begins to suspect that nothing is what it seems. Emma’s out-of-this-world discovery may be the key to setting things right, but only if she and Lucas can evade the agents who are after what they have. With all her hopes and dreams on the line, Emma sets out to save the boy she loves. And with a little help from a distant star, she might just have a chance at making those dreams come true.

I received access to this galley for free from Amazon Skyscape publishing through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I had never heard of From a Distant Star or its author, Karen McQuestion, before I requested it from Netgalley — and it was certainly refreshing to start a book with a blank slate, something that’s been almost impossible to do since I started blogging. Reviewing a relatively unknown ARC made me feel like something of a pioneer: brave, excited, and trail-blazing, but also alone and dubious. My appreciation for the book blogging community multiplied exponentially while I was reading this ARC, as I realized just how much advance readers (either before publication or before I read a book) shape everything! But more on that later.

Check out my Instagram! @everybookaworld

Check out my Instagram! @everybookaworld

It was the sci-fi aspect of the book that I was most excited for, and I was imagining out-of-this-world scenes in space between humans and aliens while reading the synopsis and getting myself so excited. After reading though, I’d have to say that From a Distant Star felt like pretty “light” Sci-fi. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but between the (bland) narration style, the main character, and what actually happened in the plot, most of the book read kind of like a contemporary.

My main beef was with the MC, Emma. Oh, how she tested me! Tested my tolerance to DNF the book, that is. It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t really know much about Sarah herself — for the most part she seemed like an almost invisible, every-girl kind of character. It felt like she had no substance whatsoever! It was really a struggle for me to feel any sort of connection to her or to feel invested in her problems.

Her defining characteristic, it seems, is her deep and “forever” bond with her dying boyfriend, Lucas. ( blaring alarm Yikes! My feminist radar lit up quite a few times during the book…) I don’t mean to put down long-term relationships/love found at a young age — as I’m terribly unqualified to judge relationships — but from what the book presented, I just wasn’t quite buying it. We get to hear almost nothing from Lucas himself (a coma will do that to you…), and I never really felt like I got the chance to know or understand him. All the reader gets to hear are Emma’s saccharine-ly sweet thoughts and a few memories that didn’t really draw me in.

And honestly, a lot of what she said about Lucas and their relationship came off to me as immature and unbelievable. Either that or her thoughts made me worry about her individuality.

“I loved Lucas more than I’d ever loved anyone in my life. I couldn’t live without him.” (A declaration of undying love in the 2nd chapter…)

“The truth was that I just wanted to be a part of his world. What we did wasn’t important to me as long as we were together.”

“‘If she loves you like I love Lucas, she’s waiting for you. Even if everyone tells her it’s over and that you’re dead, she won’t believe them. Your bond is too strong.'”

“His silence made me wish for Lucas, who would’ve known what to do. Honestly, this accident wouldn’t have happened if Lucas were around, because with him driving, we wouldn’t have ended up in a ditch.”

It didn’t help that Emma just seemed to have a knack for saying foolish things.

Countless times throughout the first half I wanted to DNF the book. Emma was just getting to be a bit much for me to tolerate, the writing was bland, the beginning was pretty rough, and so much of it felt predictable and boring. But it was the few advance reviews on Goodreads that kept me going, promising that it got better.

…and it did get better, more so than I could’ve imagined. I finally reached a point when I was reading that the action took off and managed to surprise me. Secret agencies, guns, and illegal operations, oh my! Emma and the writing didn’t really get much better, but I was finally interested enough that I could look beyond them.

Ultimately, the book’s saving grace is Scout’s character. Without going too much into detail, he is the alien presence in the book (and why it’s Sci-fi!). Though he was a relatively simple character, he was always noticeably different — innocent, kind, and good. I loved all his parts and the few chapters he narrated!

His planet’s way of life gave him a unique perspective on Earthen customs and morality. Though his observations were again, pretty simple, they were still quite valid. They really made me think about how much cruelty and atrocity really goes unquestioned in our lives because we’ve accepted it on some level and think that this is the way our society has to be.

“‘This is a very confusing planet. People believe things that aren’t true about other people just because of how they look and what kind of vehicle they drive. Why not wait and see who they are inside before you make a decision?'”

“‘That is a sad thing,’ he said. ‘Always thinking the worst of other people.'”

“‘Why don’t people just make the world a better place and then they would’t need to get drunk?'”

“‘There is not a good reason. They had just decided that those from other planets are the enemy.’ I heard the shrug in his voice. ‘Like you said, some people here are mentally ill, or just evil.'”

“‘This is a very odd planet,’ he said. [reply] ‘Yeah, I know.'”

This was the most “Sci-fi” element to me in the whole book, and without it the book might’ve been forgettable.

Overall, it’s hard for me to recommend From a Distant Star because of how hard it was to get through most of it, but I think it might appeal to readers who are new to the Sci-fi genre and want to read something a little more grounded and relatable.

Though not a solid read throughout, readers who can tolerate the MC might be pleasantly surprised if they stick it out.