And All the Stars by Andrea K Host. I first had a taste of this novel in a sample; before discovering that it hadn't been released. In the bit of the beginning that I was able to read, I was hooked. I don't read a lot of apocalyptic novels or dystopian novels. I can't say with great knowledge that this contains no dystopia, but in my meager knowledge it didn't seem so much. I was drawn into the story by the great writing and story telling. It certainly wasn't the claustrophobic description or the ever-present feeling of being choked by some strange and possibly alien dust.The slow but persistent buildup of the character, Madeleine's, suspicion that she's at ground zero of a possible bio weapon. The eventual realization that she's all alone and that those around her who aren't dead are locked up in any type of safe containment that they could find. No one is going to offer to let her, and the strange dust that's choking her, into their safety. Some of the earlier pages are difficult to get through for some people-someone I know put it down very early and it's too bad they did. There are some very important plot points in those pages. So, it's important and it does help drive the story and the character. Madeleine has survived the worst of the catastrophe with some injury and is confused and afraid. Madeleine is your average rebellious teen who seems to be a bit of a loner. She's immersed herself in her art and wants to gain honor in that field at a young age. To that end she's skipped school and gone into the big city for a chance to paint a portrait of her famous cousin Tyler. Now she's face to face with that very place that parents always warn their teens about and it could be her most fatal move in her rebellion. In her early wandering she contacts her parents and continues to lie about where she is to keep them from worrying. There is a great sense that Madeleine is already dead. She's just been given a temporary reprieve and it's not yet clear if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Madeleine eventually makes it to her cousins apartment. Her cousin is gone and she's able to get in. She cleans up and while trying to avoid facing the inevitability of her death, she decides that her last act should be the portrait of her cousin even though it won't be possible to have him pose live. For me this was a very interesting type of character development. The author,Andrea, builds a believable portrait of how an artist feels and sees things while choosing what eventually ends up on the canvas. We see this development quite a number of times throughout the story. Enough for the reader to wonder if Andrea is applying how she writes to how an artist might be inspired or if, in fact, it's from her own experience with sketching and painting. Eventually our Character, Madeleine, starts experiencing the side effects of the dust. They are both strange and unsettling, and there is always the fear that she might die. All the time she's monitoring broadcasts about others who are affected, and many of those have died. I found no problem with the notion that much of technology was still active; even after establishing that this is an invasion. In fact it made sense that since this was happening everywhere that it would be more demoralizing to have a constant feed of information telling everyone how bleak things were. Eventually the side affect that causes Madeleine to have an insatiable appetite is what brings her out to brave the city and seek sustenance. This is when she begins to meet more people and make friends in a way she would never have done if things were normal. This is when the story really takes off. I found the pacing in this novel to be quite tight. I'm not a fan of seat of your pants action from cover to cover and there were plenty of well place lulls in the narrative that make perfect sense as far as plot and character development. It did seem a bit longer than 205 pages in the e-book, but when I love the characters I love more pages because I usually don't want to say goodbye so quickly once I get to know them. As has been noted by other reviewers; there are plenty of plot twists in the story to keep the reader guessing. I often catch these in most novels, usually before they are -on the next page. There is one in here though that caught me unaware- the twist makes perfect sense- and you want to kick yourself and few other people when it happens. Young, old- whatever genre- I think everyone will love this book.(Except perhaps those who are genuinely claustrophobic; as is someone I know.) Trust me. Once you get past that first bit of suffocating but possibly accurate description (I've never been in that situation so I don't know.) things will be easier to take. J.L. Dobias
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