The Sound of Stars is a story about the power of hope, love, and art. Full of fantastic representation, Dow’s debut novel is a testament to resistance.
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for the love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
The Sound of the Stars is a story about re-discovering our hope. Like Ellie, I have been feeling rather bleak and hopeless. Ellie, a biracial black teen, has seen firsthand the effects of racism on her family. The micro aggressions, the way humanity seems to be destroying itself long before the aliens arrived. Because of this, Ellie’s perspective resonated with me, not only because she is a huge book worm, but also because she’s isolated, left wondering about the good in humanity as neighbors turn against each other. She’s scarred not only by the past, but also now the daily quest for survival.
The Sound of Stars is a story centered around art that inspires hope and love. Characters desperately wanting, stretching their hands over the great expanse looking for connection. And the way art and passion can bridge that gap, create relationships where only ashes and ruins existed before. While in many ways it seems like a story about the end of humanity, The Sound of the Stars is the exact opposite. It’s a story about how art can save humanity. Our quest to save the essential pieces of ourselves, freedom and expression, in the face of defeat. It’s a celebration of love, friendship, family, and hope.
There’s no denying that my favorite character has to be Ellie. I adored the fact that Ellie is a plus size biracial demisexual and anxious main character. In science fiction especially there are not enough diverse characters which take center stage and Ellie’s representation is a source of hope itself. Her anxiety manifests in coping mechanisms at the end of the world, as well as the shortage of medicine. She talks about her own sexuality and as there is a romantic element in the story, it’s so fabulous to see her talk about it on page. There are plenty of other diverse characters especially non-binary and bisexual characters!
What isn’t there to love about Ellie? She takes charge, is obsessed with books, and felt so relatable. It isn’t that Ellie is a cynic, because she’s not, but she’s feeling hopeless. Morris, on the other hand, read very innocent to me. For the beginning of the book I wasn’t sure how I felt about Morris. He’s an intriguing character, created in a lab to serve the Ilori, Morris’ hope for his friendship with Ellie felt a bit naive at times. Even though Morris is not responsible first hand for the imprisonment of humanity, he is part of the alien force and his expectation of Ellie’s trust sometimes felt a little unrealistic.
That brings me to my only caveat about The Sound of Stars – the romance. Both of these characters aren’t free and I think that is what draws them to each other. What begins as bonding over the importance of art transforms into a deeper understanding of the forces that constrain each other. I enjoyed both characters individually, it just took a while for me to get used to the idea of them being together. Ultimately, it takes their shared passion to ignite a spark.
The Sound of Stars is a story about hope and resistance. It came at the perfect time in my life, a moment where I was feeling especially hopeless. It’s a reminder that small acts of rebellion can change someone’s life. Our individual actions make a difference. They can combine to create a landslide. Most importantly, I adored the fact that in the middle of this science fiction book, there’s such an emphasis on art. The message that music, art, and stories can create connections to other people. A reminder we aren’t alone.