I was very excited to read this book. Not just because it was a dystopian (I love dystopian settings) but because the main protagonist is bisexual – yay for diversity! I have read many LGBT books but very little seem to cover the ‘B’ (even less so the ‘T’) aspect so I was really happy to discover that the main character Reece is attracted to girls as well as boys.
The story begins with a bang – after taking part in a National Debate competition, Reece and her debating partner David, find themselves stuck in Arizona when all the planes across the US are grounded. Flocks of birds have been acting erratically and flinging themselves at planes causing multiple crashes across the globe. Fearing an act of terrorism, the government grounds all flights until they know more about the phenomenon.
Being stuck in Arizona holds little appeal for the teens and their debating coach, so they decide to hire a car to travel back to San Francisco. It is when they are travelling across the country that disaster strikes again – a bird flies into the headlights of their car causing a massive crash.
Awakening a month later after being in a medically induced coma, Reece and David find themselves in a secret military hospital. They have undergone some kind of radical new treatment but they are warned by the doctors and other military personnel not to discuss with anyone what they have seen there. It is when they return home that things get even crazier. Both of them are experiencing strange and unusual dreams. They seem to be able to heal very quickly and are exhibiting some unusual abilities.
Feeling shy around David, whom she has crushed on for some time, Reece avoids spending time with him and ends up meeting an irresistible girl called Amber who makes her question things about herself. But who is Amber really and just what is it that is happening to Reece?
This book was intense – the beginning sucked me in right away. I was intrigued by the set-up and I really liked the main character Reece and thought she spoke with an authentic voice. The first couple of chapters were very tense and Malinda Lo really evoked the underpinning feeling of panic as all these strange and unexplained events started to unfurl.
Once the accident occurred and Reece and David woke up in the military hospital, the book followed a more familiar territory. I was initially disappointed with the direction the story took (and began to worry at this point that it was going to be more a traditional science fiction tale – especially with the Area 51 connection) but I ended up being pretty surprised by the results. Yes, this is a book about aliens but there was a lot more to it than that. I liked the creepy build-up of what begins to happen with Reece and David and the greater ramifications their treatment seems to have on them and what is happening world-wide.
Reece’s romance with Amber, for all that I was excited that the main character was going to have a female love interest, actually ended up falling a little flat for me though. Don’t get me wrong, their initial meeting and the couple of dates they had were very sweet but I think they ended up ‘falling’ a little too quickly for my liking. I like a slow, gradual build-up when it comes to romance and I felt that this was missing here.
I actually preferred Reece’s interactions with her debate partner David (a cute Asian boy) and am looking forward to seeing how things progress in the next book. I did like the idea of Amber but I never really felt I got to know her as a character therefore could not really see why Reece would find her so instantly irresistible. However, I will be prepared to change my mind in the next book if their relationship gets a little more development.
I also thought that the secondary characters were a pretty likable bunch. I really liked Reece’s mother and her best friend Julian, a conspiracy theorist who believes there is more to the events than what the government is letting on, was also a highly entertaining character. David, who initially appeared as though he was going to be the main love interest, seemed to get very little page-time but I was intrigued by what little he did get and I am looking forward to his character (hopefully) being expanded in the next book.
Overall, this was an intriguing and entertaining read, though it did suffer from some pacing issues especially in the middle section of the book. The book really started off with such fanfare but when the characters got back home the plot seemed to go a little off course and meander around until it kicked back up again in the last couple of chapters. It ended fairly abruptly as well and left a little bit of a cliff-hanger although it is not the worst I have come across.
I really liked Malinda Lo’s writing style – she has a clear, flowing voice which translates as well to a science fiction setting as it did with the fantasy setting of Ash, her debut novel which I also enjoyed. She has a knack for writing very relatable protagonists. I ‘got’ Reece. I liked the fact that she didn’t come across as flighty despite the fact that she was confused throughout the course of the novel with regards to what was happening to her and her burgeoning sexual awakening. At the start she was pretty closed-off but I liked how she opened herself up even if I was not particularly convinced by the romance itself.
The plot was interesting, it really kept me guessing and even though it did tread some familiar ground, it did so with gusto and panache. The book does have a little bit of a love-triangle going on but it didn’t bother me as much as it usually does in YA novels – this love-triangle actually did add something to the plot and wasn’t there just to up the angst quota.
I am definitely looking forward to reading the follow-up Inheritance.
##I received a copy of this ARC from the publishers Hachette Children's Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review##