James Matlack Raney is our Indie Author of the Month here at yaReads. In keeping with his line of work, he chose to spotlight another independently published young adult author, Cassandra Marshall.
Some reads are just meant for vacations or travelling: fast paced, straight-to-the-action tales that whip readers along from beat to beat just as quickly as the readers themselves are taken from airport to airport, city to city, or hotel to beach, book (or e-reader!) in hand. The Stars Fell Sideways by Cassandra Marshall is just such a read, a story that looks to transport a reader from her own life to distant lands on a wild adventure.
The Stars Fell Sideways actually pulls this trick off twice, as we meet our hero, Alison Arroway, a teen stunt double from a family of stunt doubles, who fills in regularly for Pomegranate “Pom” Posy, one of America’s hottest teen movie stars. This in itself is a fascinating world in which to be dropped, full of sycophants, fans, commercial shoots, limos, and even teen heartthrob, Erik (#3 on People’s Hottest Stars under 25 no less.) But for Alison, whose face is never seen on camera and whose deeds are always credited to Pom, life in this world is just short of glamorous; on the fringes of a dream life, close enough to be near fame and fortune (and especially boys like Erik) but not quite as close as Alison would hope.
Whisked away to a film shoot in Portugal with Pom and Erik, Alison is thrilled to be invited on an evening Yacht trip with the two stars. But in an unexpected and violent storm that tears the yacht apart on the open seas, Alison is plunged into a world even more bizarre and dangerous than stunt work in Hollywood: the lost city of Atlantis.
It is here that Ms. Marshall adds a nice twist to the Atlantean myth. As opposed to the traditional, ivory-white towers and pseudo-Greek/Roman influences, this Atlantis has reached a Victorian-era, Steampunk period, full of hydro and wind-powered electricity, locomotive conveyances, top hats, and corsets. And of course, Alison and her friends also find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between two authorities bent on control of Atlantis’s future, and on a race in search of a lost piece of Atlantean knowledge called the Book of Blue, which, according to legend, can unlock the secret to an event that will cause the “stars to fall sideways” and return Atlantis to the glorious peak of it’s civilization.
The adventure beats flow fast and furious in this book, with Alison meeting new allies (including the sweet Betsy and a young Atlantean looker named Corben) and also creepy villains, all the while discovering Jules Vernesque technologies and even undertaking some Lora Croft-like explorations beneath the caverns of Atlantis, where ancient drawings and great machines lay dormant, awaiting the fulfillment of their long-forgotten purposes. But above all else, what may stand out sharpest to the intended audience are Alison’s heated moments with both Erik and Corben, which will probably get young readers’ pulses racing pretty quickly.
This is not a story with the most intricately laid plot or tedious character profiles. It is a blisteringly paced romp loaded end to end with escapes, falls, discoveries, flirtations, romance, derring-do, and a satisfyingly epic conclusion that indeed sees the stars fall sideways. So if you have a vacation or trip upcoming, and you’re looking to escape for a few hours on a wild ride (or perhaps just to add a little teen-romance or some Steampunk-light to your reading list) The Stars Fell Sideways may be just what you’re looking for.