Title: Brightly Burning
Author: Alexa Donne
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Retelling, Science Fiction
Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.
But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet
If we have ever discussed favorite books together, you probably know that Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is my all-time favorite book. I love the Gothic elements, the brooding Mr. Rochester, and Jane’s fierceness. But most of all, I adore Jane because she is bold, a fighter, and holds a firm ground in her beliefs. So when I found out that Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne was a sci-fi retelling of my favorite classic, I was on a mission to read this book as quickly as I could.
Brightly Burning parallels with many elements found in Jane Eyre, and although this Jane Eyre-retelling in space plays true to the classic, it also holds up on its own as a great book. The main character Stella, an orphan like Jane, is smart, determined, and hardworking. She has no family and she’s not rich, but she does have so much potential to prove that she is great at her job, and you know what, she deserves a good life.
And Hugo, Stella’s new boss and our very own re-imagining of Mr. Rochester, is a teenage boy that is bombarded by so many “adulting” responsibilities. Hugo is far from perfect, and he knows it, but when he and Stella cross paths and fall into a routine of sharing personal thoughts and their love for books, I was swooning so hard. SO HARD! Does Hugo always make the right decisions? No. Do these decisions have consequences that go awry? Yes. But I will tell you, each and every plot twist in this book will have you spinning and on the edge of your seat. And trust me this wild ride is worth it.
Like its classic counterpart, Brightly Burning is littered with secrets that unfold just in time to a make mess out of all the characters’ lives. Stella is so straightforward and honest that it is hard for her to not react to the chaos that is thrown into her life when she works aboard Hugo’s spacecraft the Rochester. Add in the humanity’s destruction of Earth from hundreds of years ago and living on ships floating in space, and you too will feel the madness that comes with cabin fever, terrifying room fires, jealousy, and creepy laughs echoing in the hallway.
Even if you are not familiar with Jane Eyre, but you love adventurous romantic stories and you enjoy novels that are set in space, definitely give Brightly Burning a read. The characters are sassy and snarky and so darn lovable. The futuristic feel and living on spaceships adds that dark and lost feeling that is often depicted in Gothic novels, and works perfectly for this retelling.