Today sees the release of Lone Star, the latest novel from Paullina Simons – the author who set hearts aflutter in her novel, The Bronze Horseman, raising the benchmark for epic love stories in the process. I was fortunate enough to be approved for an advance copy of of Lone Star to read prior to release, and I settled down to read it a couple of weeks ago, with the intention of taking my time with it. I read it in two days – it’s that good.
Lone Star is the story of Chloe, a teenager who, along with her best friend and their boyfriends, sets off on a journey through Europe before she leaves for college and they all begin the next phase of their lives – adulthood. Barcelona is their final destination, but to get there they must first travel through Eastern Europe at the request of Chloe’s grandmother, whose own history is tied to the once blood soaked earth and war ravaged cities of Latvia and Poland. But the harmony between the four friends is quickly turned into discord when Chloe meets a boy named Johnny on a train – Johnny with a guitar and the voice of an angel.
As Chloe and her friends travel through Europe, discovering the atrocities committed in World War II, Johnny’s own history wreaks havoc on the carefully planned holiday, which quickly descends into something reminiscent of chaos. At the heart of this chaos is Chloe’s own inner turmoil as the life she thought she knew is turned upside down, causing her to question her future, her past, and what it is that she really wants for her life.
If I’m quite honest, the opening chapters of Lone Star didn’t particularly grab me. A story about four teenagers on a last hurrah before beginning adulthood didn’t sound overly appealing to me, but once the four friends had left home behind and set foot in Europe, I was unable to stop reading. Simons has a particular way of weaving a story that renders a reader completely incapable of putting the book down until they have all the answers, and Lone Star is certainly no exception. There is always a hook in the storyline that is as irresistible to the reader, as a boy with a guitar and angelic voice is to a teenage girl, and while I wouldn’t say Chloe is my most favourite of Simons’ creations, she is an interesting character to see develop as the novel progresses, as are her travelling companions. It’s the final stages of the novel which will keep you reading late into the night, when you know you should be sleeping. As with other novels by Simons, you will be torn between the ending you want and the ending you think you’ll get. But regardless of the conclusion, you’ll probably end up in tears and maybe a little bit heartbroken.
In this reader’s opinion, Lone Star is not quite as good as Simons’ previous novels including The Bronze Horseman and Tully – but it’s a very near thing. I think it was the characters that were the let down for me, I didn’t feel they were as strong as others I’ve read by Simons. But what the characters were lacking was well and truly made up for in the story itself: the troubles of modern Europe combined with the troubles of the past, and caught in between this are four young people on the cusp of adulthood and still discovering who they are. Judged on it’s own merits, Lone Star is definitely well worth the read and I don’t believe that fans of Simons’ work will be left disappointed – I certainly wasn’t.
Many thanks to HarperCollins Australia and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review!