Every time I encounter this name, be it on a book, an article or even from the lips of a stranger, it always starts a conversation. Most of the time that conversation revolves around how much I freaking love Malorie Blackman and everything she does but, and perhaps more importantly, she sparks conversations about things that are so much deeper. This time around she has managed to construct a novel that seems like it should be impossible.
When I first read the blurb of my proof copy I found it difficult to comprehend what was being presented to me. "Othello in space" it said. "A YA novelisation of Shakespeare's play in deep space!" it shouted at me. "That can't be right!" I shouted right back at it. But it was. Look for yourself:
Olivia and her twin brother Aidan are heading alone back to Earth
following the virus that wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family, in its entirety.
Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction.
But on their journey, Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed.
Only a few survive.
Their lives unexpectedly collided, Nathan and Olivia are instantly attracted to each other, deeply, head-over-heels – like nothing they have ever experienced.
But not everyone is pleased. Surrounded by rumors, deception, even murder, is it possible to live out a happy ever after . . . ?
Now, having read the book I did find that it's not the truest adaption I've ever read; and not just because it is set in space. I didn't mind this too much though. Although Shakespeare has survived this long, it is only its themes which have remained universal and so to be any truer to the original text would cause the story to lose a lot, if not all of its charm.
The characters are lovable and flawed and the text flows beautifully. It has been a while since I have encountered a book where I find myself 100 pages in without looking up and this one achieves that effect perfectly.
At the same time as this technical beauty Blackman also constructs, as only she can, a novel which forces a message on us. This book forces us to confront prejudice and fear and also makes us acknowledge that not all things are back and white. No one in this novel is good or evil. They are humans which have become products of their societies and their upbringings. And just as Shakespeare is influenced by his time and a novel about teenagers in space is subject to theirs, we too must learn that just because you were raised with a certain way of thinking, it doesn't mean it is too late to change your perceptions.
Overall I think Blackman remains on form with this book. Her journey away from dystopian realism (which feels like it should be a contradiction but there you go) and into sy-fi can only be described as a hit. I would recommend this for all fans of YA romance but more so those who enjoy a bit of mystery and maybe a little less intensity which the likes of The Hunger Games provides. I would say you get the best of both worlds but even I'm not that cheesy.