BOOK REVIEW – Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison GoodmanSinging the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman
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Seventeen-year-old Joss is a rebel, and a student of time travel at the prestigious Centre for Neo-Historical Studies. This year, for the first time, the Centre has an alien student: Mavkel, from the planet Choria. And Mavkel has chosen Joss, of all people, as his roommate and study partner. Then Mavkel gets sick. Joss quickly realizes that his will to live is draining away. The only way she can help Mavkel is by breaking the Centre’s strictest rules—and that means going back in time to change history.

Aren’t you tired of YA scifi novels that breed gorgeous aliens as if their intergalactic lives depended on it?

“You,” she said, “are literally the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen.” – The Alienated disaster

► Aren’t you tired of watching every one of these MCs morphing the book into some love-triangle-ish Human vs Alien macho pissing contest KissWar before your depressed eyes?

► Aren’t you tired of reading nonsensical and cheesy dialogues when you only asked for some novelty?

Then Singing the Dogstar Blues is the book you’re seeking out : well-written, no love-triangle, no whining about boys (or girls, for that matter), no instalove, but friendship and mystery blended in an intriguing concept.

However, this is not an action-packed novel. I warn you, some parts, if not boring, are pretty dull : indeed Singing the Dogstar Blues suffers from an uneven pacing (or, I have a short attention span, because all the reviews I read state how fast-paced it is – color me perplexed at myself). Yet again, I still really much enjoyed following Joss and Mav’s adventures.

Set in a futurist world where aliens – the Chorians – and humans are building an alliance, the Centre, a special school that teaches time-travel, finds itself under the spotlights when Mavkel becomes the first Chorian to attend it and is paired with Joss, a rebellious teenager who’s been trying to avoid being fired – again. All is good in the world? Ugh, no. Try secrets, rivalries and assassins lurking instead. Welcome to the Centre.

Throughout the novel, I grew attached to these characters : first Joss, an independent and strong-minded female-lead who managed to keep my annoyance away (WOOT!) and then Mav, who’s perhaps the cutest alien I ever read about… Never mind the flappy ears, the two mouths and four noses. He’s not cut out for Most Gorgeous Alien of the Year, and that’s what made him so incredibly appealing to me. Lonely after the death of his pair – when you’re used to share a mind with someone, I suppose that being alone covers an entire different feeling – he aims to be paired with Joss, who is, understandably, very much reluctant to fulfill his goals. Their growing friendship (yes, you read correctly, friendship it is) was very interesting to follow and I couldn’t get enough of them (100 more pages would have been perfect, in my opinion).

As for the sci-fi elements, I must say that I was confused in the beginning by the made-up words, but nothing insurmountable as I was hooked right away. The world building was intriguing and not too complex to grasp (this is the no-hard-scifi reader talking), yet there were several occurrences when I seriously wondered what the fuck they were talking about. This said, it didn’t make the plot confusing, because it was usually only a matter of knowing what object they were mentioning. I, for one, can live with that.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I would have loved for the story to be more developed. Although the premise was great and promising, the novel didn’t quite meet my expectations and the execution failed to take best advantage of it. Take the time-travel, for instance : it is barely explained. See, I am not the kind of reader who needs everything to be scientifically accurate or plausible (because come on, scifi novels ain’t textbooks), but I appreciate when the author makes some kind of effort to explain how the technology used works. If the way everything is showed rather than told is more than welcome (trust me, I cannot finish a scifi book relying on info-dumping), I still feel as if something was missing.

My biggest issue, though? All the “big” reveals were painfully obvious and I saw them coming miles away, resulting in a rather anticlimactic and rushed ending that left me a little disappointed.

► All in all, is it worth reading? Honestly, YA novels which don’t rely on romance are so fucking rare that for this reason alone, I’d say yes. Not to mention that Singing the Dogstar Blues may not be perfect, but it stays thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing.

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