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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Review: Starcrush by Justine Erler, Plus Author Interview

Starcrush by Justine Erler
Genre: Young Adult (Science Fiction Romance)
Date Published: December 19, 2013
Publisher: Trio Capital LLC

What if the best things in life were on the verge of ending? What if a single thought --
or a single kiss -- changed everything?  What if you realized that everything you knew --
everything you believed -- was suddenly wrong?

The emotionally-captivating debut novel of Justine Erler's Starcrush series introduces Genna Savoy,
a psychically-gifted high school senior who finds herself torn between rival aliens who look ...
spectacularly human.

In the first half of Starcrush, Genna meets Byron, deliciously aloof and rock-god cool.
The second half unleashes Elon, drop-dead gorgeous with a killer smile. Each represents
the opposite ends of extreme, scary-wonderful in their own way. In the aftermath
of these encounters, conflicted anti-heroine Genna Savoy struggles to accept her own feelings
as the reality of her perfect boyfriend ... slips away.

Starcrush is the first book in the Starcrush Series by Justine Erler. This was a wonderful book full of romance, humor, and drama. I have to say, I liked Nick quite a bit and felt pretty bad for him several times. Then we meet Byron, and while I wasn't completely sold on him as a love interest for Genna, I feel bad for him too. I feel like Genna didn't keep her word to him, but when you really look at it, they didn't really know each other that well either. So, I'm on the fence with him. When Elon entered the picture, I wasn't sure what to expect from him. I love his personality the best of  all the guys, but like Byron, he's clearly hiding something from Genna, so I had a hard time trusting him. I'm not sure which guy to root for. Byron? Elon? I'm not sure where Genna's heart really is. When she was with Byron, I thought she was all in. Then when she was with Elon, I thought she was all in with him too. After that ending, I'm leaning more towards Elon, but I still feel really bad about Byron. Ahhh! I guess we'll see. I'm sure there is a bigger picture that we'll find out in upcoming books too, like why are the aliens even on Earth to begin with? What's going on? I want to know more, and I can't wait to find out!

Starcrush by Justine Erler was kindly provided to me by the author for review. The opinions are my own.

I reached for the scarf and began to slide it off his neck. He let it happen without moving. I imagined what he must feel…the fabric brushing against his skin. His eyes never left me as the scarf came undone. Then with one hand, I caught it… and wound it around my own neck, tying it loosely into a double knot.

Inside my head, I heard him say his name: Byron.

The sound of his inner voice rolled like a wave.

He swept his eyes across my face as if he were trying to memorize the color of my eyes, the shape of my lips. I sensed vulnerability; a sadness about him that I couldn’t draw out. I hesitated for a moment, letting the impression wash over me until it was gone.

I’m Genna, I thought back with my best inner voice.

But your friends call you Gen or Gennie, he thought.

I nodded.

“Hi Gennie,” he said.

This time he spoke. A restrained smile fell across his lips. The gesture had a devastating effect, making him even more attractive than he already was…that didn’t seem possible.

1. I think almost every girl at one time had an idea of what a perfect boyfriend should look like and act like. Did your idea of a perfect boyfriend make its way into one of the characters?
Yes — absolutely! The book alternates between two extreme versions of the perfect boyfriend. In the first half of the book, Byron is described as rock-god cool with a moody-perfection that lends enough resistance to make him completely irresistible. 

In the second half of the book, Elon is bold and flirty ... and yet laid-back and sensual, as if the kiss is never far from his mind.

My personal idea of the perfect boyfriend is caught somewhere between the two main characters. Part of me wants the dark, romantic and slightly gothic version ... while another part wants the super-relaxed, openly seductive “unafraid to dive head-first into fun” version. Differences aside, my personal ideal is seen in both characters ... overwhelmingly handsome with stylish chin stubble and edgy, hip clothes.

2. So ... aliens. In the YA world of vampires, angels and werewolves, what made you want to write about aliens?
I refused to be bound by “the rules” that exist with the usual cast of characters: vampires, angels and werewolves. They’re incredibly fun and won’t disappear anytime soon, yet writing about “an unknown” gave me the flexibility and license to do almost anything. 

From the start, it was challenging to escape the expected biases against the alien subject. Typically, they’re associated with a super-horror extreme that can easily turn ridiculous if mishandled. The secret to making the idea work was to ground the story in a YA reality ... real characters and places with a dialogue-driven plot that’s plausible, and to some degree, based on science. That being said, I didn’t want to go “off world” in the book, or show any of the stereotypical sci-fi scenes. I wanted readers to recognize their own lives in the book.

It’s also important to remember that Starcrush is first and foremost a love story, so I intentionally played down the sci-fi elements and made it relatable to a young, hip audience — set at the amazingly awesome Jersey Shore.

3. What part (or parts) of the story was most fun to write?
Of course, the love scenes were incredibly fun to write. I prefer building sensual tension by pulling back at strategic moments, under the notion that anticipation is almost more intense than action. The book moments where the characters tease each other relentlessly were my favorite scenes to write. I also enjoy teasing the reader by being both subtle and direct at the same time ... so the shock value is there, but immediately tempered by something less than obvious.

4. How did you come up with your title?
I was looking for an astronomical term that was easily recognized. “Star” seemed like an obvious choice. Since the book is about crushing on ETs, I naturally merged the two ideas into “Starcrush.”

5. What advice would you want to give anyone who wants to be a writer?
Read good books and watch good movies. Then read every review you can get your hands on, so you can get outside of your own perspective and learn how others view things. Do this enough, and you’ll be able to anticipate scenes, identify both weak and strong points and apply an “exaggerated awareness” to your own work.
Justine Erler is a business consultant with a background in health care management. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband and daughter. Starcrush is her first novel of the series, combining Books I and II, and was written while in search of the perfect vampire-alternative novel.

To learn more about Justine Erler and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

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