Updated: Jul 8, 2021
Now, before I say anything, you're probably wondering—I've never heard this book title before, and it sounds super interesting! Well, you are correct, it is indeed interesting (Trust me, I read it!) and it hasn't been released yet ! Sophia Kunkel is the author of this fabulous book, and you might know her as @caffeinated_writer on Instagram! As a member of her book launch team, I'm thrilled to announce her debut novel and support her throughout her writing journey <3 Without further ado, here's my full review on Starless Skies and Broken Dreams, coming very, very soon!
When best friends Lucy and Alexis find a drifting bottle in the ocean waves of California, they are transported into a world of monsters, magic, and mayhem. To survive, they must fight against the brutal nature of this strange land, forge their own wills in ruinous cities, and reunite with each other before it's too late. But as Lucy struggles with fear and Alexis grapples with her sense of security, there are more dangers lurking about than they realize. The only question is: how much will it cost them?
To begin, the story revolves around two characters: Alexis and Lucy. They're best friends, and their friendship changes A LOT throughout the story, which I found super interesting to read about. They're not perfect, and Sophia has done a great job at giving them their own flaws and battles to fight on their own. It's a rollercoaster of emotions, but in the end, the characters' true intentions are revealed, and it is shocking, to say the least.
Aside from the main best friends, side characters are introduced almost immediately at the beginning of the story. Every character is unique, and has a different story to share in the chapters. I never got tired of reading any characters, and I think the author did a great job in creating a backstory for each and every character, major and minor.
In my opinion, the plot is beautifully written. It surprised me in some areas, but that's what made it such a good read. I'll admit, my senses are IMPECCABLE when it comes to plot twists (if I do say so myself), and while I was moving in the right direction, I was ultimately fooled in the end. The ending left me totally off guard, but honestly, it made the story that much better.
From the beginning to the middle to the end, the novel is focused around the story of these two girls entering another world through a bottle found in the ocean—which is so creative on its own—and continues to expand on the idea of a utopian world apart from their own. Sophia created beautiful descriptions of the world and added a sense of vivid imagery in my mind while reading the novel.
Starless Skies and Broken Dreams is written in two perspectives: Lucy's POV, and Alexis's POV. The book itself is in first person, present tense, which admittedly, stumbled me in the beginning. Recently, I've been delving into third person, past tense, so you can imagine my surprise when I open a book with a contrasting perspective. At first, I found it strange to read again in the first person, but truthfully, the story's plot and characters perfectly resonate with the tense. I feel like there couldn't have been a more better tense to write this specific story in, and I'm glad I was able to explore a different style of writing with this book.
In conclusion, this book is four and a half stars. Now, as I said before, the only thing that really set me off the rails was the writing style, but it does go well with the plot of the story. The storyline and characters were written in a beautiful manner, and the thing that would have made it five stars was more depth into other characters, like Lazarus and Russell. One or two flashbacks or chapters in their perspectives would have really brought the entire story together and fixed the loose-ends of some of the side character's stories. Other than that, I enjoyed reading this book and would DEFINITELY recommend Starless Skies and Broken Dreams to anyone who prefers fantasy, first person, and a story of two best friends that take the ride of their lives and change the world as they know it.
Now, here's an interview from the one and only author of Starless Skies and Broken Dreams, Sophia Kunkel!
Interview with the Author:
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was always a writer at heart. Stories intrigued me from an early age, and when I discovered that I could create my own worlds and characters, it was mind blowing. So I started penning my own works (made from squares of paper and staples), whose titles ranged from Frog is Lost to The Missing Pet Mystery, The Elf who Ruined Christmas, and Endangered Species (the latter of which, unfortunately, I copied most of my information from Wikipedia). It wasn’t until middle school that I began to take my dream seriously, though.
How long did it take you to write Starless Skies and Broken Dreams?
It took me a little more than a month to write the first draft to Starless Skies and Broken Dreams! Because I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for 3 years now, I had some good practice before jumping into this project. Also, the pandemic— as unfortunate as it’s been— really forced me to sit down and write. I had very little to do during the summer of 2020 and I’ve always been dedicated to keeping daily goals and schedules, so it was this combination that helped me finish the novel.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned when writing your book?
I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I wrote it. Lucy’s journey resonated with me much deeper than I originally planned, as both of us struggle with what it means to be brave even with an introverted personality, to be bold in spite of anxiety and fear. As I concluded with the novel, I had an epiphany of sorts to be honest— which has actually led to some pretty cool opportunities this past year. I’ve arrived at a point where I’m not afraid to take a few risks anymore, like for instance, publishing the novel!
What do you think makes a good story?
A good story revolves around the characters. Plot is of course important, but the characters are what make the book truly shine. I love a good redemption or corruption arc, but I equally adore a hero’s journey as they discover their strengths, fatal flaws, and purpose.
Where was your inspiration for the plot and characters in the book?
I mention this in the acknowledgements section briefly, but the spark of inspiration for the plot of this book came from my grade 10 chemistry class! I was doing an experiment with a flask that had so many pretty colors inside (I don’t remember what we were doing exactly, haha!) and that’s when I thought to myself: “Oh my goodness! It looks like there’s an entire universe in there.” Then I began scribbling down notes in my chemistry notebook… I eventually did write the first few chapters, but I wasn’t motivated to finish a draft until the summer before senior year. I honestly believe this was because I wasn’t ready to tell the story yet, it was still stirring inside me, simmering and waiting for the perfect moment. As for the characters— I wanted to write them as relatable as I could, incorporating bits and pieces of my own experiences in there, while still staying true to the novel. I really hope that was revealed throughout the book!
What advice do you have for writers/aspiring authors?
My most important piece of advice: don’t give up. There are a lot of people who are going to tell you that you shouldn’t write, that you’ll be a ‘starving artist’ and fail even before you begin. If you’re serious about your writing dream, then you need to pursue it at all costs. This isn’t to say you can’t have other aspirations as well, like perhaps wanting to earn a teaching degree while writing on the side, but you shouldn’t let other people bully you into living out something you aren’t passionate about. Plus, the world needs your stories. Someone’s life will be better after reading what you wrote, and that fact alone should be the sole reason you don’t quit.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to believe in herself. That she’s worth getting to know and that her writing passion is just as important as STEM. Having the ability to create is beautiful and should never be hidden just because society disqualifies it.
Did you hide any secrets/easter eggs in your books that only a few people will find?
I don’t think there are any major easter eggs or Easter eggs in my book, although I have certainly incorporated some life experiences and conversational moments into dialogue. For example, my ninth grade history teacher always emphasized the fact that history is biased, and I did include that at the end of the novel (I believe Lucy points it out).
Do you believe in writer’s block? What are your thoughts on it?
Writer’s block is real, in my opinion, but it doesn’t make you any less of a writer. Everyone goes through dry spells. I think the best way to deal with it is to take a break from writing (however long you feel is necessary), try writing in a different spot (maybe even outside, since the weather is getting warmer), and experiment with writing prompts online! Your words will come back eventually. But remember: “If you wait for inspiration to write you're not a writer, you're a waiter.” Sometimes, forcing yourself to sit down and jot down a quick paragraph about how you’re feeling or how your day’s been can spark the magic again.
Without spoiling, what can you tell your readers about Starless Skies and Broken Dreams? What can they expect whilst reading it, and what do you hope to achieve once they do?
Starless Skies and Broken Dreams tackles themes like what it means to be courageous, how to deal with changing friendships, and the challenges of societal inequality. I hope my readers pick up on all of this while they read, but more than anything, I want them to finish the book with a sense of hope, of bittersweet victory, of inspiration to be better than they were yesterday. To treat people with kindness, even when the situations seem impossible. To overcome their fears and be the best versions of themselves they can be.
About the Author:
SOPHIA KUNKEL is a rising college freshman in Pennsylvania with a passion for writing. She is an editor of the newspaper at her school, marketing director for The Young Writers Initiative (an organization dedicated to providing services for writers and artists alike), and co-owner of a popular writing tips account on Instagram. When Sophia’s not busy with writing related opportunities, she enjoys picking up a good book and sipping on a piping hot cup of tea, running cross country, and hanging out with her playful miniature golden doodle, Bielka the Space Dog. This is Sophia’s first published book, which she is beyond excited about, and she encourages her readers to visit her online at https://writinglife.blog.