For readers of young adult fiction, whether you’re a teenager yourself or just like the genre, there have never been more choices. Dystopian YA fiction is a particularly trendy category these days. Science fiction writers have always imagined dystopias, or futuristic societies ruled by oppressive governments, where the freedoms we enjoy today have vanished. Recent series, such as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Scott Westerfield’s Uglies, have brought the concept to a younger audience.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis also presents a dystopia, but with a twist. This oppressive society is located not on Earth, but on a spaceship called Godspeed, which is ferrying colonists to their new home orbiting another star. When the story opens, 16-year-old Amy is watching her parents become frozen for the journey, a torturous process. Her father gives her a choice of either staying on Earth or coming with them, asleep for hundreds of years. Amy chooses to brave the painful procedure.
The next voice that takes up the narration belongs to Elder, another 16-year old. He is slated to become the next leader of Godspeed. While Amy has been sleeping, generations of people have been born and lived out their lives in the confined world of the spaceship, performing the thousands of tasks necessary to keep Godspeed on course toward its faraway destination. Elder and the other workers aren’t even aware of the frozen colonists in the hold below where they live — until Elder stumbles upon this secret just in time to rescue Amy, who has been mysteriously awakened.
Amy finds that the society on Godspeed is very different from the one she knew on Earth. The workers, who have come to look alike over the generations, treat her with suspicion and hostility because of her conspicuous red hair. Amy soon notices that the workers all behave alike too, and those who don’t — people who are creative or artistic — are confined to a hospital and kept on drugs. She instantly dislikes this “new world order” and wonders why Elder, as the next leader, doesn’t do more to change it.