Light Years is a fine book, nestled deep in the readily-identifiable heart of its genre. It never really edges beyond that, staying in the comfort zone the entire time. If you love YA sci-fi drama, know its twists by heart, and always hunger for more, this is exactly what you’re looking for. If you haven’t yet read any, Light Years is a perfectly palatable introduction to YA sci-fi drama with romantic entanglements and some social/political intrigue.
It is not, however, my favorite.
I think I’m just a little too full of this genre at present. I’ve gorged myself on it. I know I usually like the taste, but after binging on this book-flavor I’m struggling to muster enthusiasm for anything that doesn’t twist or reshape my expectations. I need something to cleanse my palate.
Honestly, this is a well-made teen soap opera in space-war-school. It wholeheartedly embraces its genre and aesthetic. I never did read or watch The 100, but I can completely understand why this is billed as The 100 meets Ender’s Game. The fact that it’s written by Kass Morgan, author behind The 100, doesn’t hurt. But for me as a genre-savvy reader, recently inundated by similar stories, every turn was so well-signaled that nothing felt like a surprise.
I think that’s why it didn’t thrill me. I didn’t yet have enough investment in the characters or world to revel in how closely Light Years hews to the expected story-beats, and it wasn’t different enough for me to revel in its distinctions. I enjoyed it—and I liked this more than several of the other books I read this spring—but it was clear to me that I was not in the right place to appreciate this book. I’m not sure whether that’s because I’m not the target audience or because I’d too recently splurged on the genre.
I almost resent how clearly Light Years leaves the reader waiting for a sequel, but I do wonder whether anything will change in the second book—whether the next book will grow beyond my expectations of the genre, or whether it will continue to follow the dotted line. I’d love to see something new and exciting happen. But I recognize that this might not be the book series for that… and I know that that is okay.
I want to say this loud and clear: it is perfectly acceptable for books to deliver exactly the genre candy that readers want. I will not yuck that yum. Not everyone wants the same stories, and I too have my genre pleasures. Besides, Kass Morgan has done a good job of delivering on all fronts here.
If you want something more experimental—or something which grows the genre in different directions—I’d suggest Illuminae, or Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince.
However, if skillfully written teen soap opera in space-war-school is the flavor you’ve been looking for, this is exactly the right book for you.