The Sound of Stars

THE SOUND OF STARS by Alechia Dow

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“The most weird and wonderful genre-blending YA book of the year.” ~ Eric Smith, author of DON’T READ THE COMMENTS and agent at P.S. Literary Agency

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m not entirely sure how Alechia Dow or her debut novel, The Sound of Stars, came across my Twitter feed. She is friend of a friend most likely. Alechia was just one of a thousand people I followed, until the day she posted that she was in Orlando, Florida, doing a book signing. My heart leapt and I told my husband that I wanted to go meet my friend. (Yes, all the people I follow on Twitter on my friends. I can’t think of them any other way.) Of course, as I spoke these words out loud, I remembered that I am agoraphobic and that I don’t actually know Ms. Dow. I decided it was best not to drive the 90 minutes, especially during a worldwide pandemic. I will always regret that decision.

Luckily, my Instagram feed alerted me that the author had just left some autographed copies of The Sound of Stars at a Barnes & Noble in Tampa. I had to go! I drove the 17 miles and claimed the very last autographed copy. I took happy selfies with it in the store, came home, tweeted about it, and added it to my autographed books collection. I then resumed the book I was currently reading. And the next. And the next.

When my list of currently checked-out audiobooks on my library’s Libby app gets low, I scroll through what’s new in audiobooks, and I squeed in delight when The Sound of Stars showed up. I added it to my wait list and promptly forgot about it yet again. It wasn’t until the author announced that the audiobook was available via Audible that I remembered that it was on my Libby waitlist. I checked on it and saw I would get it soon. I had to decide whether to purchase it through Audible to have it NOW, or wait for the library. Since I was in the middle of yet another book at that moment, I chose to wait. I didn’t have to wait long.

The audiobook showed up as available to check out on April 23rd and I’d just finished something else. And yes, I feel bad about reviewing THIS book before the one(s) I’d finished first, but that’s part of this story and I’ll address it later.

So I started listening to The Sound of Stars that same day. 

{Some notes about listening to this on audiobook rather than reading the actual words: It took some time to get used to the chapter introductions, which in some cases are song titles and band names, while others are quotes from books. It also took time to adjust to some of the names, and at one point I hopped up to collect my autographed hardcopy so I could see them. Once I understood those two portions of the book, listening to the audiobook was easy.

The narrators Joy Sunday and Christian Barillas are amazing. At first, I preferred Joy’s parts, but as time went on, I enjoyed both equally. The difference between them is integral to the book, so I won’t explain it further. Let’s just leave it with the fact that both narrators executed their parts beautifully and (I believe) they did Alechia’s book justice.}

That’s enough of the audiobook, though. From now on, it’s about the words crafted and the story told.

It might be easy to dismiss this book as a YA, near-future or dystopian sci-fi story. If you told me that was what the book is, I’d probably say, “meh.” You could also classify it as a YA romance. In that case, I’d pass. Neither one of those are really my cup of tea, and while technically accurate, neither one does The Sound of Stars justice. It’s all that and so much more.

The summary from Libby is “Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves pop music work together to save humanity?” It touts it as “A beautiful and thrilling debut novel…”

Both of those catch my interest. I’m not at the point where I would risk my life for books, but I could see it happening under the right circumstances. I passionately love books. I also love thrillers that convey beauty. So, other than the stunning cover (Art Direction: Erin Craig, Cover Design: Mary Luna), the fact that I “knew” the author via Twitter, that I had an autographed copy on my shelf, this is what finally piqued my curiosity. An alien who loves pop music? The sound of stars… Books and music. You have my attention.

And yet this still isn’t enough to describe this delightful piece of art. Ms. Dow has crafted a work of fiction that combines books and music, aliens and romance, the future and the past. She does so deftly, and with an effortless ease. Her debut novel includes ace and envy representation, while addressing anxiety, self-image, racism, consent, hate, the current state of American society, and climate change. She sprinkles these tidbits of today’s history throughout the book so perfectly that ideas and images are neither forced down the reader’s throat, nor glossed over as insignificant side notes. They are the foundations of future world filled with desperation. And while this might create a dark and dismal story, The Sound of Stars is also filled with hope. 

Through the darkness, Ms. Dow shines a light to guide us to a better world. She throws the reader lifelines in the form of books and music. She starts each chapter with one of those lifelines, and give us a glimmer of what will come. She hooks us with every chapter.

{Now, I usually dislike quotes at the beginning of a chapter. An example of this is the celebrated classic, Middlemarch by George Eliot. The author pulls a quote from another piece of work that they find relatable to the events in the chapter that follows. I rarely see those connections, and usually find these quotes nothing more than distractions. I’ve never thought they added value – even when such quotes are pulled from imaginary books, written by people from the world we’re reading.}

Ms. Dow chose simple quotes from well-known sources and each one ties in perfectly with the chapter beneath it. I have no idea how she managed such a daunting feat. If I were the interviewing type, I’d ask her this and several other questions. For now I choose to believe she used magic.

I am going to make a shameful admission, here: it took me WAY too long to realize the correlations between chapters, POVs, and those opening quotes. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I did go back and listen to them all again. I even made a list of the mentioned songs so I could create a playlist.

But before I did that, I put my headphones in, put on my most emotional playlist, and pulled up the lyrics for them so I could truly sing along. I sang the words loudly and proudly, so much so that my twelve-year-old son came into my room to applause, the sweet boy. And then we pulled up his favorite song and lyrics, and sang together.

Only afterwards did I draft my blog post titled Music & Words. I had music and words flowing through my veins, pumping inside my heart, and creating this powerful combination of joy and sorrow. My soul ached. My mind whispered. I wasn’t ready to draft this review – not yet – but I had to say something.

I’d already been following Alechia on social media, but I needed more information about her and this book, so I pulled up her brilliant website, designed and illustrated by Danika Corrall. (After drafting this review, I scrolled through social media, looking for more details, and found two interviews you should check out: one by The Nerd Daily and one by Utopia State of Mind. I also found a delightful podcast interview! It’s 28 minutes long, but worth every second.)

After listening to the unabridged audiobook version of The Sound of Stars, I tweeted about the book, telling people they had to read it. I shared the tweet on Instagram and Facebook. It didn’t seem like enough. I want to cry from the rooftops that people are missing the most transformational, important work of fiction I’ve ever read. I want to see this book win awards and be featured in stories across the internet. I need to see Trevor Noah at The Daily Show interview Ms. Dow so I can see her and learn more about the inspirations, the books, and the music. I want to know if she really created the lyrics to a fictional band called The Starry Eyed. I need to know if this was her first time creating lyrics, or if she is more than author, librarian, and pastry chef, and if we should await her debut music album. I can’t get enough!

So THAT is why this book review jumped the long line of books I need to review. It’s that important. And since it is a debut novel during this crazy pandemic, the author is relying on word-of-mouth, book reviews, interviews, and online appearances to sell her book and get noticed by the powers that be. I’m doing my part to spread the word…

The author’s American book tour was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, and she barely made it home to Germany before everything closed down. It had to be devastating. I want to hand-deliver copies to people all over the world. I need to beg the big reviewers to read it and tout it in all the popular publications so the world sees it for the magic that it is.

I’ve read dozens (if not hundreds) of best-selling books, but none of them made me want to promote it and the author this much. THIS is the book I want on all the award nomination lists. THIS is the author I want to see everywhere. I need to hear The Sound of Stars reverberate around the world. It’s that good. It’s that necessary. It’s that powerful.

So, sure, it’s a YA romance novel with aliens. It’s also an emotion bigger than love. At one point I had tears streaming down my face. This book didn’t just make me cry; it showed me powerful depictions of love, sacrifice, loss, fear, and hope. I could not contain my feelings. My heart sat in my throat as I heard the words “unapologetically black and a queen.” I leapt for joy at the example of being your my hero and not waiting for someone else to save me. And I sighed with the idea that “Family doesn’t need to say thank you.” It is more than love, and my ardent words can never do it justice.

The Sound of Stars is music and magic. 

It is the book we need.

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