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Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a job that doesn't interest her, and living with a grieving father who only notices her when he's yelling, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she's got.

But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain's guard murdering an innocent man, Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath her ship's idyllic surface. As she's drawn into a secret rebellion determined to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares most about. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the decision of a lifetime—one that will determine the fate of her people.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published July 23, 2013

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About the author

Phoebe North

11 books624 followers
Phoebe North, a graduate of the University of Florida’s MFA program in poetry, is the critically acclaimed author of Starglass, Starbreak, and Strange Creatures, young adult novels from Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. Under the name F. Fox North, they also publish queer upmarket fiction for grown-ups.

North was a finalist in 2018 with the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Other short fiction, critical work, and poetry has appeared Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, the YA Review Network, Umbrella Journal, District Lit, 2river View and Strange Horizons (among others), and in anthologies such as the 2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, Among the Shadows and Speculative Fiction 2015. North was named a 2013 Flying Start from Publisher’s Weekly. North's short story "All Tomorrow's Parties" was the winner of 2019 Analog AnLab award for Best Short Story.

Writing from a home in the Hudson Valley, they also enjoy gardening, spending time with family, listening to obscure music on outdated formats, and fighting off the fear of death by curating an astonishingly comprehensive social media presence. They are a Girl Scout Leader and know more about the Beatles than you do.

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Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
September 4, 2018
wait, is this really-and-truly out now?? i am going to have to buy it!

jews in space!!

so let's get one thing straight. yes, yes, this is phoebe north's book. as in goodreads-phoebe north. and sometimes, when you read a book that a fellow goodread(s)er has written, there is a tendency to bump the rating up to avoid potential awkwardness.

but the joke's on you, because we are only the most casual goodreads-acquaintances. it's more of a one-sided "i am in awe of her and read her reviews the way i read blair's and aerin's and i just kind of admire them from afar" relationship, although one time we bonded over a book that wasn't very good, but she was too classy to talk about it out in the open. and that led to her sending me this book to read.

this book that is the bee's knees. and i don't even like science fiction, which shows you how damn good she is.

because it is sci-fi, obviously - it is on a freaking spaceship after all, and while there are all sorts of science-fiction-y elements with biology and botany and genetics, which she writes very well,it is also a story about a girl on the verge of womanhood trying to find a place for herself in a society that chooses everything for its people.

the spaceship asherah is populated by the post-terrestrial jewish preservation society, whose goal is to preserve jewish culture and bloodlines.it left earth 500 years ago, when an asteroid was about to hit the planet, and people started rioting and it all went bad. since then, it has been making its way towards zehava, a planet believed to be inhabitable. everything within asherah is carefully monitored, and all disease has been eliminated.

there is somewhat of a caste-system in place, with council members on the top, followed by a specialist class, merchants, laborers and artisans. ostensibly, you are placed in the profession for which you show the most aptitude on vocation day, which occurs when an individual turns sixteen, but there are of course political factors at work. no one's really going to rise up out of their family's position in the pecking order. citizens are allowed to choose their spouse, provided the blood tests pan out,and that is also generally done at the age of sixteen. each couple is required to have exactly two offspring; one boy and one girl, but these are not carried in the womb, but are grown outside the body in a hatchery in egg-like containers after the parent's dna is all smooshed together and left to ferment. (phoebe north is much better at writing science than i am)

everything about this book is excellent: the world-building is perfectly, densely created, the characters are all heartbreakingly real, and most importantly, our heroine terra behaves the way someone would behave given her situation; having lived her entire life within closed quarters surrounded by a strictly-regulated society. she is not infallible. she doesn't know arcane ninja fighting styles. she isn't the beautiful girl with the heart of gold. she is deeply vulnerable and looking to be accepted; to be loved. her mother died, unexpectedly and inexplicably when she was twelve, and her father crawled into a wine bottle to cope. her brother already has a family of his own, and she only has her art and her best friend rachel to provide emotional release, but with their new responsibilities; terra as a gruff botanist's assistant, and rachel as a dress-shopkeeper, even this comfort is taken from her.

she sends out feelers, hoping to find her bashert, or soulmate, but after she witnesses something she should not have seen, she finds herself caught up in a situation which becomes more dangerous than she expected. all she wants is a place of her own, outside of her unhappy home life and her feeling that she is a constant disappointment to everyone she knows. and this need to please, to belong, leads to dangerous exploits, but it also gives her a chance to become the woman she wants to become.

it's just a giant thumbs-up of a book, painstakingly rendered. all the coming-of-age uncertainty, all the painful decisions about duty and tradition vs. what makes sense, her poor heartbroken father, the very likable koen, rachel's loyalty despite their suddenly different social status and... that other thing...it's just excellent.

i am so grateful we bonded over that bad book, so i could get the opportunity to read this great one.

and again:

jewwwwwws in spaaaaace!!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Phoebe.
Author 11 books624 followers
December 4, 2013
Starglass is my debut novel. Here are five fragments about it:

1. Terra is a girl who sometimes regrets her words; a girl who runs her palms over her body at night and quietly takes stock; a girl who has heard things, said things, seen things she does not want to recall. She wishes she could distill her life down to a single, simple point. She wishes that it was not so sprawling or messy, wishes that she were not so sprawling or messy, too. Terra has tried for fifteen years to be good, but she suspects that she is not good. What she does not want you to know is that her desires are simple; she wants this, and only this: to be loved.

She says I embarrass her, to say it so plainly. But the truth is, Terra, sometimes the truth is embarrassing.

2. If this were a fairytale Terra's task would be simple. She would kill the evil queen who killed her mother. She would strike the queen's ogre henchmen down. She would use a ceremonial sword, carved from glass blessed by the gods.

Terra does not believe in gods. She owns no swords--only a dull old kitchen knife inherited from her gran. And Terra knows that there is no evil queen. Her mother died of cancer. It was a stroke of luck. Bad luck, sure. But Terra knows there's no such thing as curses.

Maybe. Probably. She thinks.

3. Terra was born in a bottle. Inside that bottle is a village. There is a library in that village, a school. There are scientists and farmers. There is a tower with a bell. And there is a man who rings the bell every hour that he's not too drunk to stir himself from sleep. In Terra's neighborhood there are rows of houses with families inside, and each family looks like this: a mother, a father, a daughter, a son.

Terra's family is the only one that is broken.

4. Terra was born in a bottle. Scientists made her, just like they made everyone she knows. They stitched together parts of her Momma, her Dad, and then she hung from tubes for nine months, ripening. This is the way that life works where she lives. The sheep rut in the pastures and tomcats prowl after mollies and Silvan Rafferty once kissed her in a field. But babies?

They're not born. They're made.

5. She has a favorite tree in the dome, a maple with leaves that look like red hands splayed out against the sky. Sometimes she crawls up into it and closes her eyes and pretends that she can feel the world move beneath her. Terra knows that this is silly. There's no way she can feel it move--the ship flies too silently, too swiftly for that. But when the dome lights go out, she stares up at the glass that keeps her from floating out into the stars and imagines that she knows what sort of universe is waiting for her. There are stories, songs, legends. They learned them in school, or else the other kids did, while she was busy drawing in the margins of her notebook. Because legends were never any good to her--fairy tales, comfort cold as those lonely shipboard nights. What Terra needs are answers: facts or figures, data, graphs. Because Terra knows this: she's moving toward something. Her body aches to think of it. She tells nobody, speaks of it to one. She keeps it hidden deep, deep inside.

But she can't deny the truth.
August 11, 2016
I'm still reeling from my marathon reading session of this book. A spaceship traveling to another planet? Always an interesting concept, but I've had one previous encounter with this premise through a series that shall remain unnamed, and it didn't end well. This book turned my brain upside down, set my head spinning, so on and so forth. Nothing was what I expected from the very first page. I loved this book.

A Jewish spaceship traveling to another planet. What. The. Hell.

That was my initial reaction. Um...what? Seriously? Skepticism: level 10. At that point, I didn't know what to expect. Ultimately, this idea was so incredibly well executed, and what an utterly unique concept it turned out to be.

To put it lightly, I'm not a religious person. At all. I am the first to go off on an expletive-filled rage about how much I do not appreciate religion being forced down my throat. Leave your religiosity out of my fun reading experience, please. This book is not preachy, it is not religious; it is based on a secular Jewish society traveling towards another planet on a spaceship. The society is based on Jewish cultures and values, but it is never overtly religious. I was never offended, I never felt uncomfortable, I never felt this book was preachy in any way. There is a correct way to incorporate religion and its corresponding culture into a book without being offensive, without sounding like a sermon: this book exemplifies how it should be done.

The world building and background building is extraordinary. I am highly critical of YA dystopian/sci-fi because so often, there are so many gaping plot holes. There are few such in this book. The history of how the Earth came to be endangered and everyone came to be on a spaceship was adequately explained, and there is actually a reason for the Jewish culture of the spaceship. Up to this book, the spaceship Asherah has been in space for 500 years, traveling towards their destination, the planet Zehava. The background of the spaceship, its history, its culture, its survival, are all very well described and revealed gradually and reasonably throughout the book. I am impatient, I like knowing things so that I know the context of things. This book did not spoon-feed me the details, but the revelations always came at a reasonable, relevant pace that satisfied even me.

The history and background is so wonderfully, realistically built; I cannot say I have a single complaint or question about it at all. The spaceship's weather and internal environment is controlled, and seasons come and pass as the Council sees fit. Each family has one child, a male, and a female, hatched from artificial wombs, genetically chosen and bred for strength. Citizens are assigned jobs, they can be leaders, or specialists, or laborers; there is a very clear distinction of class. At the age of sixteen, they can also get married; here's the interesting thing, the male or the female can make a marriage proposal, there are no specific gender roles. There's also diversity in this book, (not too much, since it is a Jewish spaceship, and well, do you know of any Jewish Asians besides Grey's Anatomy's Christina Yang?) but rest assured, you will be pleased with the diverse and complex cast within this small community.

The characters are amazing. You think you know your characters, you think you know how people behave? You think you know who is good, who is bad? Think again. Everyone is so wonderfully complex, so brilliantly real.

My first impression of our main character, Terra, was not a positive one. She was 12 years old, angry and full of grief from her mother's recent death. Her heightened emotions at the time was also combined with adolescent angst and irrational dislike, and I thought she suffered from the dreaded "Special Snowflake" syndrome at first. She was also so determined to love the useless art of, well...art (and she's not particularly good at it, either); Terra wanted to be an artist despite knowing that the spaceship colony's survival is based on practical skills, and not purely ornamental ones. I grew out of my dislike of her very quickly. Terra is not a special snowflake; she is not perfect, she is not beautiful, but she is a survivor, and she is persistent. She is willing to do what is expected of her by her family and by society, even if it is not her choice. She never acts like a martyr, but she is determined, and Terra does what needs to be done.

Terra may be in danger, she is involved in a mystery, but she never acts beyond what is reasonable. I would say that Terra's actions were, for a good chunk of the story---passive. This is not bad. Terra was raised to be a good girl, an obedient one, and good girls do not go pursuing trouble when they see it. She is pulled into the situation, and she does what is needed of her; she does not go seeking out danger for the thrill of it. Her actions are never extraneous.

Terra's relationship with her family is so heartbreaking. Her father is...difficult. Anyone who has had an alcoholic parent or knows of someone who suffers from the double whammy of grief and alcoholism knows what a horror it must be like. Terra lives on eggshells. She is afraid of saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things, yet she can't help herself at times; such is the landmine of an adolescent mind, speaking before thinking. They have such a complicated relationship, between his rages and his gentle moments...it is a complex, tangled mess, and utterly wrenching to observe.
"Silence grew between us, intercepted only by the sounds of the celebrations that raged across the observation deck, and the bustle of the hatchery beyond—the shouts of the workers, the cries of new children. I didn’t look my father in the eye as he stared at me, but I didn’t move, either. I couldn’t speak or breathe. I didn’t want to risk inciting his wrath even further."
Her relationship with her father naturally translates to Terra's insecurities when the time comes for her to pursue her own relationships as she matures. This book is not overwhelmingly romantic at all. It is incredibly realistic in portraying the intricacies of teenage relationships: the fear, the lust, the awkwardness, the earnestness, the hesitancy...all are well-portrayed. There is nothing predictable about the relationships within this book, and Terra's feelings and doubts are so sadly understandable, given her own family. I loved the portrayal of romance, it is believable and completely acceptable within the context of this story.
"I should have just accepted it—believed him, believed that it would all be okay. But I couldn’t. I’d spent my whole childhood trying to tiptoe around my father, afraid to even breathe wrong. I didn’t want to spend my marriage like that too."
The other characters are equally well-woven; I loved Terra's interactions and relationships with each. I also found Terra's relationship with her best friend, Rachel, refreshing. It shouldn't be, but it is. Unfortunately, a lot of books tend to underplay or slut-shame the beautiful best friend to highlight the "good" in the main character; this book does not do that. Rachel and Terra do not have a perfect relationship, but they are supportive of each other, and they clearly love and care for each other. There are jealousies, there is anger, but it is nothing overdone, and their relationship feels very realistic and by no means idealized.

If I have one complaint about this book, it is that there are too many twists. I like having a little bit of predictability, and this book just took me for a headspin. I didn't see anything coming at all. I loved it, but at the same time, I wish things were a little bit less complex. Some things stretched my boundaries of belief...like Terra's dreams, but those are small complaints in the very enjoyable grand scale of this book.

That ending. Fuck that cliffhanger, man. I can't wait to read the next book.
Profile Image for shady boots.
500 reviews2,037 followers
December 6, 2014
Recently I've been going through a strange phase. I haven't been able to read anything due to an extreme lack of interest in books. This went on for a whole month, and is still sort of going on right now. But during this time I did pick up a few books and attempted to start them, but I ended up being so disconnected from most of them and/or found myself being occupied doing other things. I mean I have lazy days but this is just a whole nother level. I think this phase was mostly caused by the fact that the majority of books I've been reading had been mediocre at best. I wasn't able to find that one book that could truly pull me in.

Starglass was the first book I picked up that genuinely did pull me in from the start. It certainly helped that I was so excited to read it due to the fact that it was written by Phoebe North, an active Goodreads user that I don't personally know but love from afar anyway, and I'm also quite a fan of her reviews. So naturally I was pumped to pick up her debut novel.

This book is a more quiet type of story rather than an action-y one, and usually those are tough to pull off unless they're contemporary. But I think the secret to a gripping not-really-action-y-type story is to have good characters. At least, that's my criteria. If the characters aren't worth caring about then I'd find the book boring and would probably just DNF it. In this book's case though, I genuinely did care for the characters, especially Terra. Man, there were some moments in this book where I truly did feel for this girl. She's quite a tough cookie, but she's also still young and it shows in that she's a bit lacking in self-confidence and is also struggling with feelings for the opposite sex.

Speaking of which, the romance in this book is very . . . confusing. At first we have Silvan Rafferty, the gorgeous and spoiled rich boy type, but then it was made pretty clear that Terra's attraction to him was only physical, even though there were some small moments that would make you think twice about it. And then there's Koen, and . . . oh man, I really can't say anything about Koen without hinting at a huge spoiler. Just read it and find out for yourselves.

And then probably the weirdest aspect of the romance was this certain boy that Terra keeps seeing in her dreams. I know, I know, the whole "seeing you in my dreams" thing is an extremely cheesy cliche, but eh. I won't give the book too much of a hard time for that, cause like I've said many times, it's YA: there's ALWAYS cheese, whether you like it or not. But this guy was neither Silvan nor Koen, and it seems we have to wait til the sequel to find out just who the heck this dude is cause there was no explanation.

Besides characters and romance I do have a bit of a critique for the culture in the book. It's just a small, technical one. I'm not Jewish and don't really know much of anything about Jewish culture so I obviously can't critique that. But what I was a little annoyed by was I wish there was a glossary either at the beginning or end of the book, because there are literally no explanations of the many terms used in the book. I guess I sort of grasped the gist of them judging from the way they were used, like mitzvah seemed like it means duty or obligation, or tikkun olam I assumed meant something like eternal happiness or something? Pretty much an ultimate goal that the people in the Asherah want to achieve. I know I can just Google the terms but it would've been very helpful to have a glossary added in if there would be no explanations.

Another thing that bugged me even more and caused me to take out one star was the ending. Or rather, the lack thereof. Like seriously, it doesn't even deserve to be called an "ending" because, during the final few pages everything was rising into a big crescendo and I was so hooked my face was practically pressed onto my phone's screen. And then, all of a sudden it just . . . ends. Just like that. During the action, during all the excitement that I was waiting for. Just, poof. I mean I'm annoyed by cliffhangers in general but this is ridiculous. So yeah, that really really irritated me that it would end so abruptly.

Other than that, though, I really enjoyed this book. Great characters, interesting story and setting, although a few annoyances here and there. The lack of explanations for terms thing I'll forgive, but that so-called "ending"? Unacceptable. Nonetheless, at least my hopes for the book were met. And hey, it got my lazy ass to actually FINISH a book for once, so that says something.
Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
January 13, 2014
Wow. I loved this book. I was so impressed by all the research that was clearly done and the way everything lined up for the ending. My goodness, THAT ENDING. Starglass feels like very old school sci-fi for the younger generation and I couldn’t find any plot holes in my reading. The only reason why I didn’t give it 5 stars is because the beginning is pretty slow and could possibly turn off less patient readers. It worked for me because I fell in love with North’s prose. But once the climax hits, the plot went nuts. I would highly recommend this to fans of Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series.
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
774 reviews515 followers
October 17, 2013
"But you know, Terra, if you didn't want to be botanist, maybe you should have drawn something besides trees."

*** This review contains mild spoilers. ***
"Starglass" quietly tells the first half of hobby artist Terra Fineberg's coming-of-age story on board of the spaceship Asherah, which has been traveling towards the inhabitable planet Zehava for about 500 years and is due to land when the heroine is approximately seventeen, earning her bread in a specialist position and at least betrothed to someone council-approved. When an an asteroid had threatened to destroy Earth, numerous ships had been overrun with healthy, genetically promising individuals willing to survive. Terra's uninformed ancestor chose the safest option with the shortest list of applicants: An ark provided by a hierarchical society of secular, but strict Jews driven by the vision to create a completely new civilization by rearranging useful seeming scraps from Jewish rituals and morals and founded on the assumption that man is inherently evil and in need of being led.

I guess, from an objective point of view "Starglass" is a well-written, slowly paced young adult novel with a nice message. Liking or not liking it is a matter of individual taste and private expectations. My expectations were dangerously high, because I have enjoyed (book) blogger Phoebe North's reviews and essays for a few years now. I admired her expressive style, her considerate opinion and her personal history of falling in love with fiction - especially science fiction - as a child with limited access to reading material. Her desire to reproduce the euphoria she had experienced when she devoured a Mercedes Lackey or an Anne McCaffrey in others resonated deeply in me. And since I always had a soft spot for interstellar travel - although I never actively watched series like "Spaceship Orion", "Star Trek" or "Star Wars", because TV time was a controlled commodity, which was distributed in smallish doses in my parents' household - and plots set in confined, self-sustaining surroundings like space ships, cruise ships, submarines, remote islands, emergency shelters, floating cities and the like with bonus excitement added for futuristic world building, I was eager enough to get my hands on Phoebe's debut to preorder a copy. Noticing that Phoebe had consumed lots and lots of space-located films, shows and books and had concentrated deeply on travelling technology that would actually work or rather fail, I dreamt up a result that would be inevitably better than other attempts: More believable, more intricate, more creative and much more futuristic. The last wish was not founded on anything Phoebe said or wrote at all. It was fueled by my own fascination with interiors depicted in films like "The Fifth Element" and "The Island" or favorite books like "Startide Rising". The exceptional cover which had eventually been revealed for "Starglass" should have alerted me to the possibility that the novel would present an albeit different world-building, but not one defined by holographic plants, wondrous architecture or intelligent suits spun from space worm spit. It did not. My homespun explanation for Terra's woolen 20th-century-style coat was that the heroine is wearing earth-made clothing in reverent remembrance of her dear mother - the writer of the nostalgic letter at the book's beginning. The ivy? Well, which cover designer had ever been able to resist the urge to add an artistic touch, a contrasting color?

The step into the reality Phoebe had concocted for the inhabitants of the Asherah therefore proved to be extra deflating for me. I had to switch gears from gleaming steel corridors, sparse, multi-functional accommodations, high-tech communication and unknown wonders to a sleepy, rickety 1,000-souls-village with an in-ground cemetery, a clock tower, a cobble-stoned shopping district, flocks of sheep grazing next to fish-filled streams, printed school-books, two-storied brick-houses that come with staircases and galleries and are surrounded by decorative gardens, and ancient, flickering computers that have been running for centuries and are used only to control the weather, house plant databases and keep people's bloodlines from going incestal routes. In short, life on the vast vessel reminded me much more of "The City of Ember" than of any space adventure I have so far enjoyed (vocational and political matters included). But the comparison to Ember's slowly failing underground town and the comparison to my own childhood in a village that was inhabited by slightly less than 1,000 people brought additional food for thoughts and a slight incredulity to the surface: I wondered where the material for the various and dynamic fashion in the clothing shops comes from - there are, for instance, golden, shimmery wedding-dresses, and colors are in or out in the matter of a season. Are they made from sheep wool? Are there flax fields? Who spins the cloths? Who does the sewing? Are there a couple of factories? Terra's best friend wears lipstick. Does it make sense to produce decorative cosmetics for such a small group of potential customers? The Asherah's captain employs 50 guards. How can they be spared, when there is food, clothing, paper, household tools, school material and more to be made, machinery, housing and infrastructure to be maintained, the next generation to be hatched and taught and scientific experiments for life on Zehava to be conducted? Then there is the hatchery, where human foeti are nurtured and human DNA is tampered with, and there is the botany department, where new plants are created. Both institutions operate with only minimal computational support. Including me there were only eight children from my village in my grade even though some families had three children or more. Consequently I doubted that Terra's class would hold so many students of her age (I estimated between 35 and 40 on the day the vocations were distributed), when each couple has one girl and one boy. Until I reached the last chapters, in which Silvan Rafferty's grandmother is introduced in a side sentence, I had been convinced that the Asherathi eliminated their citizens as soon as they become elderly. Terra should call two sets of rather young grandparents, one uncle and one aunt her own. But there is only one estranged aunt mentioned and there seems to be no relative available to help out with her brother's baby. Also, I was astonished to read that being outside by nightfall is considered to be dangerous on board. What does that guard do all day? All in all, the depicted society did not match my experience of a small community whose members know each other inside out and cannot avoid having intertwined lives. Well, the place I where I grew up was no certainly no cosmos of its own.

Another aspect I thought strange was that the mission's original members, who were chosen for their Jewish background, managed to let crucial elements slip instead of handing them down to the next generation. Doesn't a culture survive because of its stories? Terra vaguely identifies Israel as a place on Earth and has never heard of the Tora - But someone startled me with the sentence like "Where the the hell is the captain?", considering that God has been filtered out of the culture by its founders. Would not the story of the Exodus have matched the Asherahti's search for their own land of milk and honey wonderfully? On that note I have to add that I did not mind the unfamiliar vocabulary (gelt, bashert etc.) at all. Maybe I have it easier as a non-native speaker. Unfamiliar words attack me all the time in books. I just let them come and relax. I could have relaxed with the puzzling world-building, too.

The responsibility for the two missing stars, however, carry the characters and their inability to make me invest emotions in their decisions. I believe that the lack of connection is a mainly personal thing and that I would not have noticed the slow pacing of the first half had the heroine's fate interested me more. And I am aware that judging the actions of a fictional character, whose education has been so thoroughly different to the people I am setting up as the norm, is pretty unfair or impossible. But I really did not get Terra most of the time although she is a victim of her situation: First no one looked after her, although she neglected her hygiene and her clothing, was late for school and obviously beaten by her alcoholic dad. Then she started to hide with her drawing equipment in the forest and lost interest in almost everything else - including vocational possibilities besides portrait artist and their consequences for her adult existence and her connections within the hierarchy. Although there are only two years to secure a required husband, the pressure to make a decision comes as a huge surprise to her. And although is it more than obvious that the rebel group's agenda and method of keeping their followers in line are exactly as patronizing and as strongly aimed at reaching personal gains as the ship's council's, Terra apologizes for having asked for the leader's name and the greater goal and hastens to meekly do as she was bid. I understand the lesson Terra learns during that phase is what finally makes her grow as a person. Still, I had to release two or three exasperated sighs on account of her too many. In addition, I do not think that her discovery of other equally bad people on board besides the captain and her friends is reason enough to grant her absolution and let her continue to play the dictator. Terra's father, Arran, had already lost me at his wife's funeral, when he had labeled his daughter as a burden and whined about having to spend the rest of his life without a mate. No change of heart or demeanor or explanation could redeem him enough after that selfish outburst. His plans were too easy to foresee, too. Characters I instantly liked were botanist Mara Stone - although she missed so many chances to really enlighten Terra -, her young daughter and Terra's best friend Rachel. They were delightful - pinky swear. There was no joy at all for me in reading about Terra's love matters. I appreciated that Terra has erotic dreams and longs to put a few fantasies into action regardless of a specific recipient. In spite of the thumbs up in this department, I felt the lack of a worthy love interest to swoon about severely. Both of the boys Terra starts having a romantic relationship with put the reader at unease for valid reasons and not just because they both stink. But by and by I really resented the nicely slender and geeky one's clammy hands, his evasive looks and movements, and I slightly gagged when the privileged one entered the scene with his long, black, shiny curls, his slug-like, fat lips, his cocky smirk, his puppet-like ignorance, childish whining and condescending stance.

The best about the novel were the diary entries written by first generation passenger Frances, a grown-up woman whose lover had died. I felt her pain and her initial indifference and wished I could have read her complete story. Maybe Phoebe should attempt an adult-targeted scifi novel in the future? For even though I am not planning to buy "Starbreak", "Starglass" did not discourage me from still expecting great things to come from its author.
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
July 19, 2013

Starglass has a premise that we've all seen before - a community thriving in a spaceship, traveling the vastness of empty space in search for a new home. One notable book that's similar is Beth Ravis Across the Universe series, which I adore and hold close to my heart. And just like aforementioned series, this one also has conspiracies and plots going on behind the scenes, in which a rebellion is brewing and is about to lose control. Because this has been used over and over again in literature, be it in a spaceship or in a dystopian setting, I was especially wary, but surprisingly, while the premise wasn't original, the execution and delivery of it were well done, making the read a refreshing experience. 

For a book that spans 448 pages, the plot didn't feel dragging at all. I loved how in this setting, you really can't trust anyone. Everyone's so suspicious! One moment you'd think they're on the good side, later on, you'll see that their actions are very inconsistent. All sides have their fair share of good and bad apples, and like the heroine, the reader can't really tell who to believe until the very last page. But that doesn't mean it's a linear good versus evil... I think it's more of people who believe they're right and have valid reasons for feeling so versus people who are the same. In other words, it's a kind of scenario where one doesn't really trump the other, a scenario that can only be resolved not by dominating the other but by negotiating and comprising. I appreciated it wasn't all black and white, there were some gray zones as well.

There are also some sub plots scattered throughout that will make you sad with grief. However, there were times that it felt like there were too many things that was going on, so there were instances in the middle part that were just so exhausting. But otherwise, the overall plot was really good, and I loved how the rebellion and the hidden motives and agendas of certain individuals unfolded.

I also appreciated the diversity of the cast of characters here. There were a lot of neat people that you don't really see much in Young Adult literature. I won't really spoil it for you guys, so I'll say just this: expect the unexpected! Haha. Terra, on the other hand... well, I liked her, most of the time. I shared with her pain of losing her mom and the trials and tribulations she went through in the book, but there were times she made some decisions and said some words that I don't really condone. Her weak character became her disadvantage as it made her vulnerable to manipulation, but I really liked how she broke the chains weighing her down and finally decided for herself. By the end, you'll feel proud of her as she finally stood on her own two feet. That part where she ultimately determined what feels right for her was such a monumental moment. You'll truly appreciate the Coming-of-Age aspect here.

Overall, this book was really good. There were some things that I didn't like, but generally, I found it well-done with the right pacing and enough scenes that would make you drool for more. Even though the premise is not original, Phoebe North still gave us content that provided something new to the genre. I am definitely looking forward to book two!

An ARC was given in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.
Profile Image for Nemo (The ☾Moonlight☾ Library).
627 reviews302 followers
September 20, 2019
This review was originally posted on The Moonlight Library

Despite the fact that the plot didn't even kick in until well after the halfway mark, the book… wasn't bad? Like, I enjoyed Terra's everyday life in the spaceship. What I didn't like was the blurb promising me:

"In this futuristic, outer space thriller, Terra has to decide between supporting the rebellion she believes in--and saving the life of the boy she loves..."

And like no, that's not what's happening at all, it's not a thriller, and she barely believes in the rebellion because she, and I, both don't really know what they're rebelling about. And she's not in frickin love with anyone, that's for sure. And it's not Phoebe North's fault that the blurb writers hyped up her book and promised it was more exciting that is actually is. It's slow-paced and definitely lacking in thrills or excitement.

It's more like she accidentally stumbles and fall face-first into this rebellion and then never picks herself up off the ground to explore and maybe find out more about it. She's not curious, she's not driven, and she has no motivation to do anything to advance the plot. She has no goals and no obstacles to overcome. The rebellion are all like 'Oh, before you join us, you need to prove your loyalty' and if I was her I'd have just walked away, because they obviously need her more than she needs them… AND THEN the thing that they need her to do? If she just FRICKIN WAITED a few weeks she wouldn't have had to do it at all.  Like, I don't even know why there is a rebellion at all? What are they rebelling, that the Council is trying to keep them alive? That there are rules and laws? I mean, there are always going to be assholes, and for most of the book, it appeared to be the rebellion who weren't quite sure what they were standing up for but riled each other up anyway.

Terra seemed kind of bland, though. I think she may be intelligent, but it's hard to see because we get so little introspection (except some stupid dreams). She's passively drifting through life and the largely plot-less book like the Asherah is drifting through space, due to reach its destination but until then, life goes on as usual. I'm not looking for a high-stakes, ninja warrior, Hunger Games style action adventure, but I would like Terra to be directly involved in the plot. If you take Terra out of the novel completely, the story would be exactly the same until the plot finally kicks in at 70% (well kind of but not really). That's what frustrated me about this book, as well-written as it is. Having a good grasp of the language you're writing in doesn’t automatically make you a good/interesting storyteller. Terra's passivity annoyed me. And while I don't think she's particularly happy, I also don't think she's depressed or suffering from PTSD from an abusive, alcoholic father.

What I did like was the secular notion of these Jews in space. They speak Yiddish words and have Yiddish traditions, but they're not forced to worship or whatever it is Jews do (I don't even know, I was raised Catholic). All I know is that the representation here felt respectful to both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. I didn't feel excluded, although I did have to look up the definition of some words. It didn't feel preachy or even religious.

So overall I was happy to read the book, disappointed that it was little more than a 'slice of life' type story, with a rebellion that seemed really pointless. (But really, how do you sell something that's more like 'nothing really happens'?) However, the writing was good. But it wasn't good enough to make me want to shell out $25 for the sequel (because the sequel's ebook doesn't seem to be available).
Profile Image for Rachel Hartman.
Author 14 books3,821 followers
June 11, 2013
This book is hard for me to talk about because it gives me lots of FEEEELS that don't have much to do with the book itself. Untangling them all has been the project of months, and I'm still not done. Don't worry, it's unlikely to affect you in quite the same way. I'm an eccentric case, as ever.

It's more thoughtful and introspective than you might expect going into a SF book set in deep space. I hope lots of people read it, and I hope more books like it are published and see wild success.
Profile Image for Angela.
3,198 reviews368 followers
December 7, 2014
11 April 2014: $1.99 on Kindle - I pounced on this so I had it in Kindle (I'd previously borrowed from the library). I think it's definitely worth it for this price!

I'm conflicted about this book, or rather how I think about it. On the one hand it does some things really, really well; others it does satisfactorily, but some things frustrated the hell out of me. I'm going to try and talk about all of these things.

The stuff it does really, really well: Diversity. First of all, this is a Jewish spaceship. Peopled solely by Jewish people. It's so nice to read about some religion other than Christianity, honestly. I loved that. Then there's the fact that the book opens with a letter from a lesbian woman to her daughter. I nearly did a fist-pump at that. The fact that gay is not shuffled to the back like it's something that never happens. I really appreciated the fact that the author used this science fiction setting to explore the issues of homophobia and gay rights. The right of choice is a strong theme throughout the book.

Other things worked for me, but didn't raise that 'hell-yes' feeling in me. Like how Terra reacted in certain situations. How she felt about her situation, and her role in the greater scheme of things. The way the community developed and changed over the 500 years they were traveling to their destination was eminently believable. The writing was straight-forward and easy to read through. This was a quick read - I'd fly through 20-30 pages before I even realized I had. I was glad that romance wasn't a focus, really glad actually, though I think it probably will be in the next book.

But, yeah, there's always a 'but'...But, there were things that left me shaking my head in frustration. I'm a character reader. I love characters, they are what makes me invest in the story first and foremost. Second is the world. Preferably I'd have both of these in my books. Great characters that feel real in a world that fascinates and intrigues. Unfortunately Starglass fell down for me in both categories. The only character that is really developed in this book is Terra. And she's so damn passive that I could never really love her. She accepts whatever she's told, by whomever deigns to tell it to her, and just goes along with it. Eventually she starts to question, but it was a little too late for me. Though she spends a good deal of the book working towards personal agency, time and time again she simply falls into patterns that leave her following someone else's plans. However, this is the first book. I will say that by the end I had hope that maybe, just maybe, Terra would show the growth I might have glimpsed in her last act in Starglass.

I mentioned that I like intricate worlds, and I kind of expect them when you're on a spaceship that left Earth 500 years ago. This could have taken place in a walled community cut off from the rest of the world. There was little to no advancement in technology - except for the fact that kids are grown in hatcheries instead of born now - computers are pretty much a non-entity; jobs are shopkeepers, bell-ringers; guards; bakers; botanists, etc. Then there's the fact that they set sail, as it were, for a planet that they know NOTHING about. Five hundred years flying through space and you don't even know if this planet you're heading towards has air we can breathe, water to drink, or if it's at all habitable. It strained credulity for me. I had a hard time swallowing the lack of advancement in a people that could build a spaceship like this.

I didn't even really get to get a good feel for the fact that we're in space until near the very end - when .

Conflicted. Still. I was hoping that writing my review would give me a better idea where to rate this.

I guess I'm ending at 3 Stars.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,651 followers
July 22, 2013
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

Phoebe North's Starglass has been on my radar ever since I learned that the author was once a prominent blogger. I've never read that blog and don't know too much about her, but I like supporting bloggers, so I wanted to read this book. I always expect big things from bloggers who publish, because they know better than anyone what tropes to avoid, or so I assume. For the most part, that was very true in Starglass and I did very much enjoy North's debut.

The plot on a basic level is highly reminiscent of Beth Revis' Across the Universe trilogy. However, in the course of one book, North takes the plot through what took two books in that series: the dissent on the ship and the approach to the planet towards which they've been heading. This is not to say that the two are identical by any means, because they're not. In fact, I think I rather like Starglass better, both for the abbreviated time on ship and for the more interesting characters.

As I mentioned already, North does a lot of those things bloggers regularly request. There's diversity in that everyone on board the Asherah is Jewish, this being one of many ships that departed Earth as its destruction neared the Asherah only accepted those of Jewish descent. One of Terra's ancestors, a non-practicing Jew and a lesbian (squee!) found a place on the ship. There are other gay characters as well, which is awesome, even if society does not approve, which is less awesome.

Another fantastic thing is how many of the authority figures on the Asherah are female. Women and men are in equal standing here. The current leader of the guard is an imposing female by the name of Captain Wolff. When the time comes for marrying (16 - if you have not chosen by 18, a mate will be chosen for you), girls can ask for a boy's hand in marriage just as the boys may ask. Plus, women don't have to bear the two mandated children (one male, one female), as they are hatched from eggs in a disturbing and haunting process.

As with Revis' series, the plot consists largely of a combined mystery and rebellion. North does a good job with it, and did surprise me with one of the twists there at the end. On the Asherah, it's really hard to know who to trust, and that's conveyed beautifully. The pace does move somewhat slow, without much action, but I really enjoyed the writing so I didn't mind.

So far as the characters go, they don't quite have the depth I would have wished for, but they are interesting. Terra's narration is intelligent, but lacks the scientific know-how to get too much into the nitty gritty science fiction details, but that worked out pretty well. For most of the book, Terra has a tendency to go along with what others want of her, even if she's not particularly happy with it. By the end, she's finally obtaining some agency of her own, perhaps due to the example of Mara Stone, to whom she's apprenticed, or to the craziness going down on board the Asherah.

My only other concern is the romance. Most of what went down with that in Starglass was walking the border of discomfiting. For example, I find her treatment of her first suitor rather hateful, but, then again, he did lie to her, so I suppose it's forgivable as long as she learns from the experience, which I think she has. Terra's second suitor also upsets me, because of what that did to her friend, whom she envies for being so pretty. Hopefully, the impending love interest will lay my concerns to rest, but things could really go either way at this point.

The ending leaves me very ready for book two, though Starglass does come to a nice ending of the main plot arc. Phoebe North's debut is a fun science fiction novel on the lighter side, and I look forward to her career; I expect good things!
Profile Image for Mike.
489 reviews170 followers
September 20, 2014
Phoebe North is a pretty important name for me when I think of YA, GoodReads, and reading in general. The Intergalactic Academy was the first internet blog I ever followed (you can tell because I referred to it as an internet blog), and, along with her co-blogger, Sean Wills, she essentially taught me how to review by example, and the two of them recommended me a shit-ton of books.* (EDIT:**) So I was beyond excited to read Phoebe's debut. The experience wasn't quite everything I hoped for, but it was still great. You see, with this novel, Phoebe combines two of my very favorite things: space, and Jews character development.

(jewwwwwws in spaaaaace!!)

Because Terra is quite the character. She's well-developed and real-feeling, precisely what I would've expected from Phoebe. (I'm pretending I'm on a first-name basis with her.) But I think my favorite part about her is that Phoebe allows her to make stupid mistakes. With all the bloggers and reviewers on the internet calling characters 'stupid', as if it's automatically a bad thing that the characters don't do the smartest thing in every single situation, it's a pretty risky decision to have a character make realistically dumb mistakes. But Phoebe doesn't seem to be afraid of that, and Terra does make a lot of dumb mistakes - it works, because she gets called out on the mistakes both by herself and her friends, they have actual consequences for her, and she does her best to make up for them.

The supporting cast is equally strong, particularly Terra's intended, Koen, and Mara, the botanist she's learning from. I especially loved Koen, for reasons that are a little spoilery - the point is, his character arc created a unique take on arranged marriage and subtle oppression. I'm also intrigued by Terra's father (or her Abba, as she calls him). His decent into alcoholism and his detachment from his daughter and his life were both stunning in the accuracy of their portrayal. Actually, that's one of my favorite parts of the book - the way that Phoebe shows the different reactions to the death of Terra's mother, from Terra and her brother, Ronen, to Abba.

It's actually difficult to accurately describe what made the character interactions so effective and honest. I could say that Terra acts like a real person, but how many times have you heard that? It's just honest in a way that you don't see very often, particularly in Terra's friendship with Rachel. Or her relationship with Koen, which is a bit spoilery, so I'll focus on the first one. There was something that stood out as very human in the way that Rachel and Terra thought about their future and talked about boys. I'm not entirely sure how to describe it. You'll just have to read it.

Anyway, Terra's voice was also captured rather accurately. The writing is smooth and effortless - not once was I aware of the writer's presence, as Sondhiem would put it, just of Terra's. She talks and thinks exactly like a teenage girl, and while the writing isn't anything overly-special, there are some nice flourishes here and there, and it's some of the better simple prose I've seen.

The plot was probably my biggest stumbling point, mainly in the first half of the book. So little happens up until the 50% mark - I didn't even feel like I knew what the book was supposed to be about. The discussion of the murder that Terra witnessed was poorly integrated with her struggles to help her father and marry Koen.

But once I got through that, things improved dramatically. In the second half of the book, Terra's development and the rebellion's were essentially one and the same - whereas before, we would switch back and forth from Terra's personal life to the rebellion, after , her personal life became sort of defined by the rebellion, which is a bad way of putting it, but that's how it is. The point is, it felt more natural and cohesive than before. And one of the best parts of the book is Terra's struggle to figure out the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys' in the conflict between the rebellion and the ship. Grey and Gray Morality is definitely in effect here, with each side doing good things and bad things, and Terra's struggle to figure out who's right is one of the more interesting ones I've seen in a while.

And finally, the worldbuilding. It was absolutely phenomenal. After reading the book, I had a great idea of how people on the ship lived, how they got food, how they got jobs, how they got married, and all those other important things. I also have to appreciate that Phoebe wrote a society that was casually Jewish in the way that most are casually Christian. I had never even thought about how the majority of societies in fiction are Christian in that way - Phoebe subverted my expectations without me even realizing that I had any.

This is a phenomenal book, and I would say that even if not for my familiarity with its author. I've been a fan of Phoebe's reviews for a while, but now I can say that I'm a fan of her books, (well, book), which really is a lot more meaningful than any review. I would recommend this to any readers of YA or genre fiction, or anybody who hates both, just because this doesn't read exclusively like either one.

*So, if either of them are reading this (although Sean probably won't, since he appears to have disappeared from GoodReads - seriously, where is he?), I just wanted to say, thanks, and you guys are awesome.

**And now the website appears to be defunct, and all her reviews are gone from GoodReads. I am on my own! The thought intimidates me. I'm gonna miss that website. No more Animorphs re-reads, no more MG Monday, no more defining genre... I just realized that nobody knows what I'm talking about. I'll show myself out.

EDIT: Alright, you know what annoys me? Criticisms that Terra 'isn't likable'.

There's an assumption among YA readers growing more and more prevalent that characters should be perfect. Deny it all you want, but that's really what you're looking for when you say that you want the narrator of a book to be likable. You'll criticize them when they make stupid mistakes. You'll criticize them when they're not a good friend. You'll criticize them when they don't do the thing that's exactly ideal in any given situation.

Characters in books are not real people. You're not supposed to be judging them on whether or not you'd want to be friends with them; you're supposed to be judging them on whether or not they're interesting, whether or not they're realistic. But while characters aren't real people, they should be like real people. And part of being human is that thing that your parents and your teachers have told you since kindergarten: nobody is perfect. Everybody makes stupid mistakes. Everybody acts like a jerk to their friends sometimes. Everybody gets in a situation where they do the wrong thing.

You can't expect a character not to do those things, because that's not realistic. Likability, in the way you desire it, simply isn't something that you see in the real world. I'm not likable. Phoebe North isn't likable either. Your best friend isn't likable either. Hell, you're not even likable. Take a second to wrap your head around that: because you make stupid mistakes, because you're sometimes a jerk, because you're sometimes whinny and annoying, you wouldn't be likable if you appeared in a book. I'd rather a character who does the precise opposite of what I'd do in a given situation than one who does the ideal thing. If Phoebe made characters that were constantly and always likable, her writing simply wouldn't be realistic. Terra, in my opinion, is a fantastic protagonist, and her lack of likability is part of that.
511 reviews210 followers
June 3, 2013

WARNING: I couldn't bring myself to use commas(,) in this review because for some reason they are pissing me off. Please bear with me.

Note: The extra half-star was given in the throes of subjectivity because this book brought me out of what could have been depression.

This proved to be a very challenging read for me. First off it's been a while since I've read of a totalitarian or tyrannic or just any bad type of government that tells you when to marry and when to have kids and sometimes who to marry. Secondly I'd been reading a lot of sad books and everything depressed me. Moreover this isn't much of an action-oriented novel.

And then they tell me Jews are going to take over the world.


There burst my bubble of hope that this book will help me get better.

Not that there's anything wrong with Jews; it's the taking over the world part and the "we'll keep our culture alive" that depressed me as it very rightly should.

But you know what? There came this point in the book and I had an epiphany.

No, not one of this kind.

See at this point I was laughing happy sad and relieved laughter. And I realized the marvelosity and awesomosity of this book and then I had to go back and read it all over again.

*please insert mad and sad fangirl raving*

I haven't felt the need to insert so many spoilers since The Eternity Cure but I will start right and proper now with the review since I didn't before.

Starglass is a mellow sort of book. The rebellion the murders the fates of peoples is all in the background. This is a coming-of-age(you tell me a better term and I'll use it) in all its entirety. Terra the protagonist is a teenager who's lived all her life inside the Asherah. She's like a normal teen when we grow up and realize that the world wasn't what we expected it to be.

(Except we don't have to take part in rebellions and go up against murderous government-types. Well most of us.)

She knows there's something off-kilter about her world and that she doesn't fit in but this is all she's ever known; hasn't even the slightest clue as to what could be different or what should be.

So instead she tries to fit in; she tries to grow into pretense and maybe come to tolerate it.

Terra was a terrific character. She makes mistakes she owns up to them in her mind but it's difficult to do so to the wronged party like it's for all of us. Terra does bad things doesn't defend her friend when she needs it and above all tries to take the easy way out thus not remaining true to herself in those moments. She is just looking for acceptance and love after losing every bit of it she had in the past. Her dreams are consumed by it and so are her actions.

And I could relate with her every step of the way. The rest of the characters are also touching and ambiguous- which is yet another thing I want to madly and sadly rave about.

Rooted in Jewish culture and perverted to meet the people's needs the world was fabulously crafted in every aspect. It's rich and terrifying and utterly not what I expected. The fundament of the ruling and working of this world is good deeds- mitzvot. There is a hierarchy in the social structure correlating with their professions and it's a spiral(can't say anything proper as it will be a spoiler but you'll see if you read this book). This is a very strict world and every bit of your life is monitored and tailored to achieve tikkun olam- which you should look up. There is tightly wound tension in the background

And then what we've been waiting for- the rebellion. For revolution junkies I'm sad to say that Terra is on the very lowest of the low pedestal in this rebellion. She wants to overthrow the government just about much as the other person but be realistic. She's naive young and quite a recent addition so obviously nobody will put her at the center.

Unless they did. Or maybe they didn't.


*giggles like a maniac if maniacs actually giggle*

Like Phoebe North said in her very own review in other words that this is not a fairytale and there is no evil queen to overthrow and Terra wield no sword. In the end there is no black or white or even gray and the evil queen is in-existential, a notion.

Starglass is about growing up finding your place or making your own cave. It is about the distinction between what sounds right and what feels right. All the pain of growing up and losing and losing yet again and finding yourself in this one fantastic book.

There is some abundance of predictability and a couple other things I couldn't figure out like- but spoiler! Moreover the beginning found me nodding off at places and there isn't much action but the cons are so so few I don't mind them. At all.

Now I'm going to do something bad and quote from the ARC(oh please S&S give me that one liberty)

I lost something in waking. I always did.

Note 2: Did the lack of commas piss you off disorient you? Good. Humans have become so dependent. Depending on commas! Hmph!

So many thanks to the publishers for providing a review copy.

Cross-posted on Books behind Dam{n}s
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
July 22, 2013
Regina and I discuss our impressions of Starglass over at Badass Book Reviews.

A wonderful tale about life on a spaceship headed towards the promised planet. Interesting use of Jewish culture and customs and beautifully written.

What an amazing debut book for author Phoebe North! On the surface, Starglass seems like a young adult science fiction book but it is way, way more. Starglass touches upon so many themes and it can be read on many levels. Both young adult readers and their parents will enjoy this book.

I loved how the author integrated Jewish themes into the narrative. To step back just a little, Starglass is the story of a young girl on a spaceship, one of the few that escaped Earth almost 500 years earlier, right before an asteroid destroyed the planet. This particular ship was designated to preserve the Jewish identity of its passengers.

This is not a religious book; instead the author took some artistic license with Jewish traditions and evolved them into something unique and interesting. It was at this point that I wondered if the book would have benefited from a glossary of terms which it does not have. Luckily, the author’s website does have a glossary for those interested in the meanings of some of the terms.

The world of Starglass is intriguing. The characters are on board a huge spaceship, kind of like a Noah’s Ark of humanity. The ship has been traveling almost 500 years – these passengers are the descendants of the original travelers. While the story takes place on a large spaceship, it kind of has a small town feel to it. There are trees, farms, stores – the characters even have household pets. While you are reading this story, it’s almost easy to forget that the characters are on board a large ship. Yet, on the other hand, the small town feeling is intensified because they are on board a spaceship.

The central character of Starglass is Terra, a teenage girl. Terra has just finished her formal education and is assigned to work as a talmid (apprentice) to the ship’s botanist. Terra’s father is a broken man – he drinks constantly and is still grieving the death of his wife and Terra’s mother. He encourages Terra to court Koen, his apprentice. Terra’s relationship with Koen is odd, almost sterile. Meanwhile Terra dreams of her Bashert (her chosen one, soul mate):
“In my dreams, kisses were simple, uncomplicated. There were no expectations. No promises. No spectre of rebellion hanging over my head. There was only affection. Warmth. Desire.”
After witnessing a brutal murder, Terra joins the rebellion movement. Terra is assigned an unpleasant task, but after a certain discovery, she is committed.

I really liked Terra. For a young woman, she is extremely practical and smart. I loved her thoughtfulness and the way she behaved. Terra was not easily swayed and she questioned things that she did not agree with.

Starglass touches upon so many themes: love, rebellion, environmentalism, same sex relationships, and even reproductive technologies. It can be read simply as a young adult book, about a girl coming of age on board a spaceship, or it can be read on a deeper level. This is an awesome debut for author Phoebe North and I can’t wait for the second book to come out!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Simon and Schuster for a review copy of this book.

Profile Image for Jodi Meadows.
Author 31 books4,629 followers
February 17, 2013
My official comments:

Murder, rebellion, and spaceships done right: Phoebe North’s STARGLASS gave me the best kind of chills. I can’t wait to see what the sequel has in store.

My unofficial comments:

Profile Image for Jill.
349 reviews338 followers
July 23, 2013
Starglass is surprising. It’s seemingly a pretty formulaic YA novel. There’s an awkward heroine with the typical YA tropes: she’s unsure of herself, worried about her future, and pluckily desperate to overturn the current social system. There’s a love triangle—well, sort of—and the plot itself is simple to follow. But beneath the stereotypical exterior, Starglass ends up being quite different from the usual, and that’s what I most appreciated about it.

For example, take the two love interests. Normally, YA boys are gooey constructions manufactured to make young female hearts sputter wildly, but the boys in this novel are frustrating…and not in a sexual way. I wanted to punch both of them at times, which I found oddly refreshing. Perfect teenage boys do not exist, so they shouldn’t exist in the fictional realm. One love interest in particular reminded me of every spoiled, elitist prep school boy that I’ve had the misfortune of attending school with, and I loved it. It was cathartic to hate him, and not in a I-hate-you-but-also-find-your-arrogant-wiles-attractive way but in a pure I-hate-you-so-much-it-makes-me-want-to-stick-my-hand-in-a-blender way.

The other characters defy likeability standards as well. The story begins with the death of Terra’s mother, but instead of lionizing the mother, North paints her character ambiguously. My feelings about every character are ambivalent, which I think relates to North’s overall theme: things aren’t cut and dry. Everyone is a mix of good and bad, so we must act in line with moral standards we’ve personally determined to be acceptable.

My second favorite thing is the discussion of sundry social issues. A small population living on a spaceship for several centuries is bound to live by a stringent social code; it’s necessary for survival. As a result, Starglass deals with homosexuality, the right to choose a spouse, reproductive rights, and more mundane but equally important rights, like the choice of where we want to live and what we want to eat. These are complicated issues and again, North writes about them with an ambiguous hand. She doesn’t simplify the issues by saying, “Well of course we should ALWAYS have absolute liberty to do what we want.” She makes it clear that it’s often impossible to satisfy everyone, which is exacerbated in claustrophobic conditions like those of a spaceship.

Unfortunately, certain plot reveals were way too obvious. In general, the pacing and plotting were shaky. I was disengaged for the first part of the book and then entertained off and on until the end. Things lag interminably and then develop too quickly. The pacing is just bizarre. Near the end, however, the pace began to roar and I found myself surprised by the direction the plot turned.

The ending is unquestionably awesome. My reaction to Starglass is mostly lukewarm, but because of the surprising twists at the end and North’s skewering of YA tropes, I can’t wait for the second installment in this duology. Also I haven’t mentioned it yet but the spaceship in Starglass? It’s a Jewish spaceship. JEWISH. SPACESHIP. Enough said.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,481 followers
September 28, 2013
The sole sign of my father’s chaos was the glass that sat encrusted with wine on the floor beside his bed, a line of ants circling the rim.
        Even in the future, in space there are ants
This is science fiction, however that is almost the backburner of the story.  There is a spaceship, travel to a new world and babies born from pods but it is also the tale of a girl becoming a woman in a world with very few choices.
On a ship headed for a new planet to call home life has been practically the same for everyone for 500 years.  All diseases are practically gone so Terra is different in that her mother died of cancer.  Most children do not loose a parent in their early life let alone to disease it is unheard of.  At 15 Terra is on the edge of adulthood and will have an occupation chosen for her and soon she will have to marry be just like everyone else on the ship.  But she cares nothing for that, the only thing Terra wants is to be loved.  She has been having dreams of her Bashert (twin soul) for as long as she can remember although she doesn’t know who he is.
Sweet, hopeful laughter, laughter that rippled like river water over stones.  I felt real and whole and present, like a better version of myself.  I wonder if this is what love might feel like.
You know when you think a story is headed in a certain direction and it is traveling on that path just fine and then it up and takes a left turn about a mile before your destination.  Yep that is what this story did for me.  Not in a bad way, I liked the left turn the scenery changed a bit and the new direction seems full of possibilities.
Terra witnessed a murder and her life changed forever.  She tried to forget and not be a part of it.  She tried to get lost in the customs of her ship and courting.  But she is pulled into the seedy underbelly of the society and they have a task for her to do.  Terra also discovers along her journey that her parents, the people she thought she knew so well have secrets of their own.  Terra must figure out who she trusts, what she believes and if she can fulfill the role she has been asked to play.
Phoebe North did an excellent job of building the world on the space ship Asherah.  It was interesting and the rules of the society were fed to the reader organically through Terra’s experiences.  I was interested in the customs of the ship, the ways the population was controlled and how the political structure worked. It has been mentioned that this is Jews in space.  But honestly some of the language used Yiddish in it and other than that you would never really know they were Jewish at all it really played a very minor role.
I loved the ending! It was exciting and I really couldn’t wait to turn the page a see what happened next but then it was over.  Just a minor cliff hanger though enough to make you want to come back for more.
Profile Image for Sue (Hollywood News Source).
781 reviews1,594 followers
September 2, 2014
In a nutshell, Starglass is this shinny new thing, that have so much to offer but don't be fool because this book is pretentious and nothing more.

Starglass doesn't have ANY redeeming qualities like none. I came up with nothing. If you're hesitant and skeptical in reading this book. I am urging you to run away as fast as you can and don't you ever look back.

The plot doesn't make sense. It's contrived and cliche. I cant even. Let me list down some of the most annoying parts.

Starglass is a shoddy attempt for a novel. This is probably the most awful book I've ever come across. Read it at your own risk.
Profile Image for Douglas Beagley.
796 reviews15 followers
August 28, 2012
Hunger Games was a pretty good book, you know? Both post-apocalyptic and dystopian, after a fashion, it was a coming-of-age action novel with some really fun character issues. But it had some problems. I never quite cared about Katniss's personal and family life, for example, because Katniss never quite seemed to care enough, either. The writing was fine, the adventure was fine, and for our reality-show culture it was a perfect hit.

For me, the most intriguing moments in Hunger Games, which rang in my head long after the novel was done, were those depicting the main character's relationship with her mother. I have a few friends who were forced by circumstances to become the responsible one in their family, and that stuff was more interesting than the action scenes. I dislike reality shows. I am far more interested in reality. Hunger Games sets up a devastating family dynamic, but then takes me out into the woods for the duration of the novel.

Phoebe North's Starglass does better. No, there's no death game show. Oh well. Instead, we stay with the family, with the spare and interesting culture, (which, in a very interesting way, again has shades of both post-apocalyptic and dystopia). And we have to grow up in the middle of all of it, side-by-side with a complex, enjoyable character. It might be less fun than a reality show, but it was way more real.

I don't like young adult coming-of-age stories. They all read the same to me, and they focus on feelings that I explored pretty well when I was 14. And when I'm reading SF, I want to see the SF premise interpolate with an adult character. I don't really like hanging out in an adolescent body, thinking about boys or social stigma.

So why did I like this book?!

Starglass was so well-written that I didn't care. Phoebe North managed to grab my gut and fling it in several scenes... because she didn't take us away from the family, something a lot of YA (particularly SF&F YA) seems to do. That's what I'm grateful to this book for: giving us time, giving us reality. There's no easy answer for the main character--no easy stereotypes for her father or brother, for example. So we get abrupt, beautiful moments of poignancy.

"Death is only an ending for the person who died."

Recommended. Will read this author again. Disclaimer: We are friends.
Profile Image for Kirsten Hubbard.
Author 7 books655 followers
December 2, 2011
such a beautiful, beautiful (and thrilling!) book, with one of the most haunting endings I've ever read. one that will make you stare off into space for a while.
the outer kind.

I hope a certain someone is hard at work on the sequel.
Profile Image for Whitley Birks.
294 reviews355 followers
November 19, 2013
See more book reviews on my blog.

This book had the rare ability to make me enjoy it and be completely infuriating at the same time. I greatly enjoyed the worldbuilding (shipbuilding?) and atmosphere and characters going on here. It was a meandering, slice-of-life sort of thing with a slow building up but plenty of fascinating concepts and character interactions to replace the lack of action. (I don’t need a fast-paced plot as long as your slow-paced one keeps me interested!) But there was also a rebellion plot, and frankly that plot felt like it had been added in after the fact. It was awkward, confusing, and constituted nearly all of the problems I had with the book.

First of all, I’ll say it along with everyone else: JEWS IN SPACE! The premise of the Ashera fascinated me. When earth was about to be destroyed, many colonization ships took off for distant planets, hoping to find one that would support life and continue the species. Each ship (or at least, most of them) was funded by a different group, so naturally they attracted like-minded passengers. In the Ashera’s case, they were dedicated to preserving the secular customs of the Jewish people. So my concerns about “only the Jewish people get to be saved” were neatly side-stepped by that, and I could enjoy the customs and culture depicted in this book. (I have no idea how accurate those customs are, and my friend that I asked didn’t sound too happy about the bits I was describing, but you can sort of give them artistic license? It is more than 500 years in the future and things did have to be adapted to spaceship life.) I loved the culture in this. I loved how smooth it was, how certain things permeated the culture and had such far-reaching effects. I loved the details and how they came about so naturally. I loved the way that being in a space ship affected their culture, and the changes they’d had to make for that, both culturally and in terms of technology, like how the wind always blew in only one direction.

Basically, I loved delving into the daily life of this pastoral countryside stuck in a space ship. If it had been 400 pages of that, I would have been…upset after about 250, I guess; 400 pages is a lot. But! It would have been a really awesome 250 pages!

I enjoyed the characters, as well. Terra’s relationships with her best friend, her father, her boss, and her fiancé were all wonderfully nuanced and rich. They were frustrating and angry and complex and difficult and sweet, all at once. There was some real drama there, especially between Terra and the rest of her family, and I ate that right up! It was heartbreaking in places and heartwarming in others and a practically perfect mix of each.

And then…we have the rebellion.


The only thing that constituted a “real” reason to rebel, in my mind, was the ban on homosexuality. But even that was slightly off in my mind, because it feels like a lot of the conversation was left out. “You can’t marry another woman because everyone needs to keep making babies.” Not really a valid argument when all children are created in a lab and grown in artificial wombs. Heterosexual sex is no longer a requirement, to the point where the population is sterilized to prevent unplanned pregnancies as a matter of course. None of the gay characters pointed this out, they just said “well that’s unfair,” which left the uncomfortable implication that they agreed you need a mommy and a daddy to raise a baby, they just didn’t want to raise any babies. (Ugh, we even have sperm donors and surrogate mothers right now, this concept shouldn’t be unknown!)
Profile Image for Regina.
625 reviews390 followers
July 22, 2013

Very rarely, every so often – -but not very often — comes along a book that just takes hold of me. These are books that I remember years after I have read them. Starglass is one of those books. I am not sure why I was surprised by Starglass. Perhaps because I was thinking — what more could be done with young adult and science fiction. I should not doubt the capacity for invention among the creative — and author Phoebe North is definitely creative. This is a book I am sharing with my 13.5 year old and my husband. Starglass is fun, it is beautiful and it is important. There are so many big themes in this book but they are not done in an “in your face way”. The themes are background. Some readers have noted that religion plays a role int his book. But I disagree — I don’t think religion is a theme. The culture of a religion is definitely a theme, but religion as a way to worship or express faith in a higher being was not present. Does that make sense?

The setting of this book is a spaceship, however it felt like a village yet it was still claustrophobic. The idea of people boarding a ship they would never leave and never ever set foot on the destination is amazing to me. Amazing in the sense that I cannot fathom it. Maybe because everything is so immediate for me in my current life style. The simple sacrifice given in hopes that generations later will benefit? Amazing.

Some themes in this book center on duty to society -- they play on religious culture and romanticism. But I see the governing power as using these themes to control the populace. For example, the young girls often talk about finding their soulmate/Bashert. I found the concept of soulmate/Bashert to be used by those running the ship to get people to buy into the idea of picking a mate of the opposite sex and staying with that person for the remainder of their lives. But full disclosure — I am not a sucker for soulmates. I just don’t believe in it, but then I a like romance novels without a happily ever after. ;) Another example is that reproduction does not happen in a woman's body any longer but in a hatchery. The concept of the hatchery seems to be done in many futuristic novels. But how it was done in Starglass — with the incorporation of joy and anticipation was new. I wonder though, is it really more energy to have babies the old fashioned way? It seems like a lot of energy is put into the hatchery. But the use of the hatchery does remove the self sustaining ability of each individual and transfers the power for everything to the government. I wonder if that was the purpose. Something as simple as creating one’s own family was removed from each individual.
Language and Terminology

The main character, Terra, is a great main character! She is appealing, but not perfect. I really appreciate having a main character with flaws, she is just more personable and more identifiable. Her shame and embarrassments in certain situations were so real. North does a great job at drawing out Terra’s insecurities and her differences from the other youth her age. Terra has that something that allows her to question things and be loyal — some people have it and others don’t. The friendships Terra has are so real and believable. One of the talents Ms. North has is to slowly draw relationships. By doing this, the build up in the story is well done and situations that happen are believable.

The novel works toward a certain climax. It makes sense where the people of the ship are going. In getting there, there is a great twist and an awesome reveal. No spoilers in this review — but the twist as to who was behind everything was great. Not surprising but great. The people in the story and on the ship have surrendered everything to the higher ups, they have bought into a caste system, they have no ability to full express themselves verbally, creatively or sexually. I can see the motivation for wanting something different, something more in tune with what was left behind 500 years ago.

“I thought about how our society had survived these five hundred years. By swallowing our lumps and doing what we were told. Even if it bored us — even if we hated it.”

I want the sequel now – -Phoebe did you read that? Do you need a beta reader? :D I am going to look into the other stories Ms. North has out. And we can always enjoy her very thoughtful reviews on Goodreads and where she blogs.

So who would enjoy this story? This is easy — fans of reading. I am serious. Fans of young adult books, fans of science fiction, speculative fiction, and dystopia will have love this book. But readers do not have to be into young adult or science fiction to like this novel. It is so well written and is a beautiful story. Starglass has broad base appeal.

For more reviews like this check out Badass Book Reviews
Profile Image for Jo.
1,121 reviews60 followers
July 2, 2014
Since trilogies are all the rage, I am sure that there will be a sequel, but did it really have to end that way? With all the available endings out there, you would think North would have compassion on us readers. But, no - she unashamedly leaves you in the biggest lurch and quite possibly not produce another offering for 365 days. Of course, since the days are longer on board the spaceship, time gets a little confusing. So I am going with the solid 365 of waiting to see what happens.

The world building was very thorough in this book. The Jewish heritage mingled in the story added a depth of richness and heritage. As you think of all the Jewish people have been through - the diaspora, the Holocaust, the pogroms, the endless years of antisemitism - you gain an admiration of their endurance and their will to live. This shows very strongly in the characters. You admire these people who have been on a ship as long as the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. They probably would have a kindred connection (had they kept up with the complete history of their ancestors) to those who had come before them as they longed for a real place to call home.

We are fascinated with the future as a society. We long to be able to know that in the future things will get better. The Jews who had been dispersed from Israel had a saying - Next year in Jerusalem - to signify their hope that the next time they celebrated a holiday it would be in a better place - home. I think we look for reassurance that next year will be better - a world without war, famine, or disease like cancer. This book did a great job of dealing with our human frailties and takes an exceptional look at the loss of loved ones. Grief is treated with a serious brush stroke. So many stories in children's fiction have orphans. Just think of some of your favorite fairy tales - chances are the protagonist has experienced the loss of one or both of their parents. The same holds true for the stories that are being churned out today. North does a fantastic job of showing the loss of a parent and the impact it can have on a child.

There were only a couple of things that kept it from being a 5 star book. The first is the resemblances to books that have similar elements such as The Giver by Lois Lowry and Across the Universe by Beth Revis. The idea that the governing bodies decide which job you are assigned and that a batch of babies grow together and get their assignments on a special day really reminded me of The Giver. Besides being set in a spaceship, it was similar to Across the Universe in other ways. A young girl who knows nothing must unravel where her loyalties lie as she is romantically pursued by the second in command. Having made that comparison, I would like to say that Starglass has more substance than Across the Universe. I feel you could use Starglass in a book club setting and have numerous themes to discuss. I felt Across the Universe was an entertaining read, but not very deep. Second, I felt that the message about acceptance for all and liberty to love whomever you want to love was a little heavy handed. It is an important topic, and we certainly need books that open the dialogue with our children about this. I just felt a lighter touch would not have been amiss. In all other aspects this was a top notch novel. It had great pacing, good solid writing and an intricate and intriguing plot. I truly look forward to the next one as I thought the last 25% of the book was definitely 5 stars.
Profile Image for Jennifer Castle.
Author 41 books403 followers
March 17, 2013
I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I truly loved this book. Maybe that's because the strength and beauty of it have nothing to do with its classified "genre" but rather, the things that make any novel a fantastic journey: A multi-layered, complex and achingly real main character, Terra, who latches on to your heart and grows in ways that are surprising yet totally organic. A society built with nuance and detail that felt both uncomfortable yet familiar to me. The world of the starship, the Asherah, crafted in a way that I could see every ceiling panel, smell every smell in the small townhouse galleys, feel the claustrophobia but also the undercurrent of hope and possibility as the ship drew closer to the end of a nearly 500 year trip. A story full of twists and turns that keep building on one another, and kept me guessing/turning the pages/thinking about it when not reading. And of course, the writing itself. I like me lots of poetry in prose, and I got my fix here. Some of Phoebe North's words made me catch my breath and read again, rinse, repeat.

The blurb for this book talks about it being a "thriller" filled with "intrigue" and some (literally) star-crossed love. And there is that, yes. But there's a lot more, and I hope readers see it, and love it the way I did. I can't wait for the sequel next year! In the meantime, I think I'm going to have to start reading more sci-fi...
Profile Image for Louisa.
497 reviews364 followers
August 4, 2013
Oh my GOD, this was good. Jewish citizens 500 years away from Earth living on a city-within-a-spaceship bound for the alien planet Zehava and harbouring a secret internal uprising against the governing Council? You know you wanna!

I'm not normally one for sci-fi but give me anything YA and I'm usually for it, and I'm so glad I decided to spend a ridiculous amount of money on Starglass. While a little slow for my liking at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the setting. Terra is a realistically flawed narrator. One thing I loved about her was how you can tell she is just sixteen. She makes some crappy decisions, can be occasionally bratty, didn't like her job, makes bad relationship decisions too, basically honestly would act like a teen desperate to fit in. Even though I forsaw one or two big twists, that detracted little from my enjoyment of the story as a whole.

The fact that the next book will be radically different setting-wise makes me incredibly excited. I'm all for a duology after all the trilogies in the market. Just that tiny fact that it'll take another year...

Profile Image for Bibi Rose.
128 reviews10 followers
October 10, 2016
Wonderful voice, wonderful worldbuilding. The main character becomes a botanist, and the sensory detail about plants is gorgeous.

Starglass captures that teenage uncertainty and sense of being thrust out of childhood-- thoughtfully and with very positive energy. Something you can really feel good about putting in the hands of a YA reader. Can't wait for the next one!
Profile Image for Cory.
Author 1 book398 followers
Want to read
December 2, 2011
I don't know how I feel about the blurb, but Phoebe is pretty passionate about spec fic so I'll give it a shot. Two years is a helluva a long time to wait though. Perhaps GalleyGrab (if they remember I exist) will release it in 2012 before the world ends.
Profile Image for Kody Keplinger.
Author 20 books6,772 followers
January 5, 2012
I read an early draft of this, and it was amazing even then! Cannot wait to hold this book in my hands and read the final product.
Profile Image for hayden.
1,056 reviews733 followers
Want to read
March 16, 2015
Guess who just requested this on Eeeeeeeidelweiiiiiiiiiiss? *sings*

I'll give you a hint:

Profile Image for Mrs. S.
223 reviews14 followers
March 16, 2013
Um, please forgive me if I sound like I'm losing my mind, but...I am a little bit. That's how much I loved this book. And now I have to figure out how to talk about it without sounding crazy OR giving any spoilers?

Ok: here goes.

First of all, if you loved the Godspeed series by Beth Revis (beginning with Across the Universe) and you've been moping around because you want more great YA Sci-Fi set on a generation ship? Here you go. Starglass takes on a similar setting and similar issues, but in a very, very different way. The social structure on this ship is just as strict and incites just as much tension as the one on Godspeed, but it's set up completely differently.

The society and culture on board the Asherah is unlike anything I've seen in science fiction--maybe I haven't been reading enough science fiction, but I think this one stands out. It feels more human--there are still shops, and cats, and food (proper food, that people cook themselves) and people get to choose (to an extent, at least) who they will marry. Things are dusty and dented and there aren't computers everywhere or loudspeakers blaring commands--heck, there's a belltower, and someone to ring the bell! And, the culture itself is derived from Judaism--the aspects that remain are the secular ones, and in many cases, Jewish culture has been pressed into the service of what the ship's leaders feel is the greater good, but it's pretty neat to see how the Jewish origins of the ship still influence its culture. All in all, the Asherah feels a bit like a shtetl in space, which made my brain explode with its awesomness.

And then there's Terra. I love this girl. I love her bittersweet, complicated, but basically loving relationship with her best friend. I love that she really, really wants to mess around with boys because it feels good and she's a teenager, but that doesn't mean she's a flirt or goes bedhopping or any of the traits usually assigned to girls who enjoy that kind of thing. I love that even though she thinks hooking up is a really good time, she is also looking for her "bashert", essentially her soulmate, because who doesn't want that? But the book never looks down on her for enjoying getting physical with a guy she knows is not her bashert. I love that she talks about her cat a whole bunch. I love that she loves to draw, and that she wasn't magically perfect at it right away but that she got better over time. I love the way her relationships develop over time, with boys and with her family, her best friend, and her boss. She's complicated and she changes and I really loved her a lot.

And the ending! It was the perfect blend of satisfying and cliff-hanging. Obviously I am very excited for the sequel, but since that won't be out for AGES, I'll content myself with looking forward to the release of Starglass so you all can read it for yourselves!

I received a free advanced e-copy through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
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