Title: And All the Stars
Author: Andrea K Höst
Genre: YA apocalyptic fantasy
Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.
None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.
Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.
Every now and then, I come across a book that blows me away with its perfection. This is one of them. I knew early on that it was going to be a great book because it was so well written. Frankly, I was surprised to find out it was a self-published book. If anyone dares to tell you that Indie books are inferior quality, tell them to read this one, then shut up.
And all the Stars is completely unlike anything else I’ve ever read; a three phase take over of the world by human-possessing Aliens. First the spires and the dust appear, then either blue or green streaks appear on the skin of those infected by the dust. Next, stars appear in the blue. Madeline has her own little galaxy on her skin. I can’t tell you what happens after that without blowing the story to some extent, but what I can tell you is that she meets a group of other teens and they set about surviving the apocalypse as best they can.
It’s an unpredictable, tightly written, totally unique story that holds you from beginning to end. The pacing has plenty of variation with times of high action or suspense, and other times where you can relax and go more deeply into the characters and their relationships. The multicultural cast of teen characters are well drawn and the group dynamics are very realistic.
There is nothing extraneous in the writing and nothing missing, just as it should be. The imagery varies from evocative descriptions of a mundane world in turmoil to the startling beauty of an alien race. Höst impressed me with her sensitive portrayal of Madeline as an artist, and with her ‘alien-building’, both visually and conceptually.
In this apocalypse, the power and the internet keep running, and television and social media are a vital tool for gaining and sharing information to support resistance. The kids never moved bases without their laptops and webcams.
Like all good young adult fiction, there’s a touch of romance; this time with a startling twist about ¾ of the way through that leaves Madeline reeling. While this bunch of delightfully intelligent kids is trying to save the world, on a more personal note, we’re wondering if Maddie ever had a relationship to save. The end is fabulous, uplifting but not soppy and with an epilogue that leaves you perfectly content.
The primary theme is a common one, but no less important for that—great things can be achieved when people work together in a team that acknowledges the strengths and weakness of it individuals, encourages and honours their unique contributions and supports them through their trials. The novel also models acceptance of diversity, the nobility of self-sacrifice for something you believe in, and a compassionate approach to dealing with enemies. (How do you get the possessor out of the body without killing the innocent body as well?)
Having lived for many years right where it all takes place, I really enjoyed the central Sydney setting. I found it all too easy to visualise St James station in the disarray described at the beginning of the book. Though universal in relevance, I recognised the characteristics of these kids’ acceptance of each other regardless of race or sexual orientation, their positive attitude, resourcefulness and determination to survive as a very Australian combination. I loved that Sydney led the world, and the final image of the concert in the park was totally Sydney.
I highly recommend this excellent book and give it a resounding 5 stars.