Sing Down the Stars is one of those books that had an amazing premise. I loved the idea of aliens as jellyfish-like Medusae that hung threateningly in the sky and yet never attacked. They left after a year, seemingly leaving the Earth untouched, or so everyone thought. In fact, their presence wasn’t felt until girls started being born, girls with the power over elements. Families with girls disappear and whether it is by choice or Commission led is debatable. Penn and her family have been hidden in plain sight for her entire life. Soon it may not be enough, as things seem to be pulling at the seams. Sing Down the Stars had everything that was interesting in a young adult science fiction novel: people with abilities, interesting technologies, and an organization that has dubious desires and plans. The problem is that it went beyond that and tried to have just a bit too much in the book.
While reading Sing Down the Stars I felt as though I was reading several different books. Everything was connected by a common issue, but because there were several ideas and problems put forth in the novel, I couldn’t put a finger on what it was truly going to be about until later chapters. I know that this will be a series, but even for a first novel it seemed all over the place. It was fascinating to read about this world, but it was muddied by focusing on things that didn’t really make sense or was purely conjecture on Penn’s part. I wanted to know more facts, and they weren’t always given to us. It was one of the reasons I didn’t get engrossed in the novel the way I expected to. Another was the lack of characters.
Although there were more characters in the novel than just Penn, they weren’t in it as much as I would have liked. Her four sisters, whose personalities are shaped by their gifts, were characters I was interested in. Unfortunately, they disappeared into the place where characters go to grow and never came back out. Most of their character growth was given to us by Penn, and she wasn’t an entirely reliable character. The only characters who had okay character growth were Penn, although some of it was questionable, and Birch. I can count on one hand then things I know about the characters who are in the Commission, and most of them are synonyms for “bad.” I would have loved to see the Warden with a bit more. I’m a huge advocate of writing how villains see the world, because there’s always a reason for their actions. Even if we’re meant to hate them, I want to see how their views became warped. Overall, this is a novel that I would have loved to see with more point-of-views.
My main problem became how much was crammed into one character. Penn Roma is the protagonist in the series, so she is meant to be special. She has the power to “sing down the stars,” and at first, that was the power that she used. It had been set up early in the novel that girls are the ones who are touched from the visitation of the Medusae. Something occurred in the year that the aliens came, but it wasn’t until much later–when girls with the touch were being born–that people realized what had happened. The first is born with the power of flames; the second with the control of water; the third can move rocks; and the fourth, rare girl can move the winds. Penn is the fifth girl, an impossibility. As such, it’s understandable that her power is different. Unfortunately, I felt that she was given too much. Her powers continued to build and change as the events in the novel progressed to the climax, and with it my incredulity grew. One or two changes I was able to believe as long as they were within her gift’s boundaries; when Penn’s powers became a way for her to get out of or change every single problem she happened upon, it became more of a deus ex machina move.
Overall, this was a really good idea. Although it was similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was able ignore the similarities most of the time. Sing Down the Stars moved a bit quickly through the problems and that kept me at a distance. Things like the Hounds, gifted girls who are trained hunters forced to use their gifts to capture and neutralize their own kind were pretty unique to the world. Those things should have had more of a focus. Aliens and power over elements have been done; Sing Down the Stars‘ flaw was that it didn’t really dig into what made it different.
I received a copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Sing Down the Stars will be published on October 6th, 2015.