Cover of a Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson. A box of popcorn with planet on it, in front of a starry background.

About the Book

Title: A Complicated Love Story Set in Space
Published: 2021

Cover Story: Jawbreaker
Drinking Buddy: Dehydrated
MPAA Rating: R (language, sexuality, violence, tense situations)
Talky Talk: Unresolved Cliffhanger
Bonus Factors: Reality TV, No One Can Hear You Scream
Bromance Status: Delete From DVR

Cover Story: Jawbreaker

That’s a hell of a title. Not much of a cover. Popcorn doesn’t play a major role in the book, and it doesn’t really draw the eye.

The Deal:

Noa wakes up one morning in a spacesuit, tethered to a spacecraft called ‘The Qriosity’, drifting aimlessly through the void. A voice in his ear tells him he’s running out of oxygen and the ship is in danger of exploding. He has no idea where he is or how he got there. He soon realizes he’s not alone on the ship. There’s Jenny, the sarcastic, rude, super intelligent and highly likeable girl he finds locked in the space toilet. And then there’s DJ: the awkward, nerdy, kind, beautiful boy who immediately risks his life to save Noa. As far as lost in space companions go, they make a fine crew.

But what’s the deal here? This ship is clearly far more advanced than anything any of the kids have seen. But why is it so beat up and dirty? None of the kids can remember how they got here. Of course, are they all telling the truth? There’s a holographic avatar who can answer any of their questions, except for how did they get on this ship, who put them there and why, and how do they get home? Also, the Avatar is of former child star Jenny Perez, who only wants to talk about her screen credits. The ship faces deadly crisis after deadly crisis, which are almost–but never quite–enough to destroy our brave trio. Do they enjoy this ride across the galaxy, or will their bickering cause them to wipe out in a black hole?

Drinking Buddy: Dehydrated

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

Noa is a wonderful, sensitive kid. A skilled baker and a scholar, DJ quickly takes notice. And when you effectively are the last man in the universe, a hookup is kind of inevitable.

The problem is, Noa’s last (and only) boyfriend hurt him. Hurt him read bad. Noa isn’t ready to start a new relationship, no matter what a nice guy DJ is. He’s been hurt by nice guys before.

Of course, he doesn’t share this with DJ. Or with the reader, not until much later in the book. So we get a lot of baffling scenes.

DJ: So, um, I cooked us dinner.

Noa: Get away from me, you monster!

And that’s only the beginning of the annoying ‘I know something you don’t know’ bits on the author’s part.

MPAA Rating: R (language, sexuality, violence, tense situations)

Time starts repeating itself, trapping Noa in a Groundhog Day-type loop. Acid-secreting aliens invade the ship. Noa and DJ wind up going to a high school dance together. Jenny somehow meets a boy, threatening the group’s dynamics.

Is this the end of the crew of the Qriosity? Stay tuned!

Talky Talk: Unresolved Cliffhanger

The whole time I was reading this book, I had one recurring thought: This plot truly is complicated. And completely ridiculous. There had better be a damned impressive and compelling explanation of all of this. Something that can make sense of all these self-admitted confusing details. Something that will answer all these questions that Noa, DJ, Jenny, and I have. Are they being observed? By whom? Mad scientists? Aliens? Are they dreaming? In some sort of virtual environment? Who is behind all this? We’ll find out, right?

Nope. While we eventually get the ‘what’ and the ‘why,’ we never get the ‘who.’ Who put them in this ship? What is their motivation? When does this story take place, our present or the future? Why could Jenny Perez never make a successful horror movie?

Like the movie Cube, every other episode of The Twilight Zone, and the author’s previous book, The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza, we’re just kind of expected to not worry who’s behind the curtain or why they’re doing all this. It was very anti-climatic, even more so because our main characters don’t seem to mind being left in the dark.

Bonus Factor:  Reality TV

Black and white television

So thanks to some cryptic clues from Jenny Perez, a lot of blatant product placement, and glimpses from the outside, it becomes pretty obvious the crew is being observed. Is this for entertainment purposes? Are they on some sort of Truman Show program? They certainly never agreed to this…did they? What right do strangers have to watch what Noa and DJ do in private? And there’s no way a television studio could create a dimension-jumping spaceship, right? So why aren’t their parents trying to rescue them? Noa has a loving mother back home. And what’s with all the boxes of belongings that have the names of strangers stenciled on them? What happened to the previous crew/cast/human sacrifices?

Bonus Factor: No One Can Hear You Scream

Cordelia screaming when she finds a body.

So the only adult supervision they have is the hologram of some former child star no one can remember. Pretty fun, eh? No one to tell them to do their homework, to make them act responsibly, or to chaperone Noa and DJ. But there’s no one to help them when the ship’s life support systems start to shut down or to explain what they are doing out in the middle of space anyway. Like Alien or The Thing, our heroes are on their own. No help is coming.

Bromance Status: Delete from DVR

I’ve enjoyed everything else from Hutchinson Studios, but I think this is a one-read show.

Literary Matchmaking


Lucy Keating’s Literally is about another kid who realizes that her life seems a little plotted.

Waste of Space

Waste of Space, by Gina Damico, is about a reality show set on a spaceship.

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

For a much better book by the same author, read The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley (I hate that cover. I hate it).

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor stale protein bars for writing this review. A Complicated Love Story Set in Space is out now.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.