Book Reviews, Sci-Fi

The Good in Selected

NetGalley delivers digital galleys, often called advance reading copies, or ARCs, to professional readers and helps promote new and upcoming titles. Professional readers–reviewers, media, journalists, bloggers, librarians, booksellers and educators–can join and use NetGalley at no cost.” Netgalley is a special section of my book discussions where I post reviews of the digital books I read through this service. It’s quite amazing the gems you can find. I’ve yet to regret reading a book, even if I don’t like it…

selected-cover

3.5 Stars rounded up to 4 Stars due to excellent plotting and world building.

Kara has been selected by an alien race who have come to earth, not to invade and take over or cause mass destruction (though they threaten it) but to take a small group of children aged 12-15 years old back to their planet. Each child must pass horrible physical changes as well as learn to work within a group for a common cause. At Kara’s side is her childhood crush and neighbor Matt and their instructor and Kara’s personal ally Jim, an assimilated teen from another planet pilfered like earth. Will Kara make it to her new world alive?

At times, especially in the beginning I really wondered if I would be able to read this book. Look at this terribly funny passage:

“A world without having to eat vegetables was nirvana. Kara had never seen a salad bar to rival what was before her. She would never feel guilty about not eating peas or broccoli if she ate a daily salad.”
Did you notice? Its all vegetables girlfriend…salad & peas!! I know the author tried really hard to make Kara feel like a teenager and not a young adult teenager of 16 but a young 14 year old. I don’t really subscribe to a 14 year old heroine being of Young Adult genre qualifications. Technically it is but then you get such mixed reviews about it riding a line between middle grade and YA!! Such is the problem with this book. There were ridiculous missteps like the one above paired with extraordinary quick wittedness that really would have worked better with a 16 or 17 year old.

Another valid complaint was the writing is stilted with a mixture of adult language and extreme simplicity. No 14 yo talks or thinks like this!

“With the new segmentation of her team, Kara questioned whether they would be able to help the floundering team. She was ready to raise a white flag and surrender. In the long run, would her team make things worse for the other group of children; and what consequences were associated with a team unable to promote out of Level One?”
Such is a side effect of trying to find the balance between middle grade and YA when the author themselves has not seen that cusp age for a very long time. Fortunately, though the writing remained weak, the more annoying details did smooth out the farther into the book you went helping the readability of the story overall. Another misstep at the beginning of the story that was terribly distracting and rather amateurish writing, was how Kara would pose questions at the end of events instead of having developed thoughts that left the question in the subtext. These too lessened as the story went deeper. Ideas were developed for the other characters then abandoned as Kara progressed. For example, Matt sobs for his parents one night even though he told Kara he was wanting to leave earth. She never resolved the disparity of these two ideas nor thought that they contradicted one another.

Kara’s narrative voice is rather weak in the beginning and what character it did have was distant and whiny, hence I really disliked Kara at first. Also she’d “know” things and tell us them and only after she announced the fact would things happening actually support her conclusion. This is the author telling the character things before they happen, a big no, no! This paired with the writing problems almost sunk the book for me, fortunately all these problems were contained within the first 25% of the book – i.e. in the setup!!

It was the premise and the world building as it is slowly revealed through the setup and beyond that really won me over!! I thought the premise of why the aliens were there was sound. And the science made sense, what was there:

“Earth’s troposphere is seventy-eight percent nitrogen, twenty-one percent oxygen, and one percent argon,” Jim informed her. “We do not have argon in our world, but sarian. That is what we had to condition your lungs to breathe.”
Also the gathering of the children and the testing process seemed well thought out to bring about a specific outcome for the children, i.e. the plot was strong. There was also quite brutal reality thrown in to let us know the stakes were high. At 30% I posted: “For all its faults it’s easy to read, the plot is fun and you like the characters.” And it’s true! The team building middle is quite strong and becomes a big motivator for Kara all the way to the end. Whenever the next story point came forward I was totally engrossed in the plot and seeing what happens next! I won’t go over these plot points as not to give away the story – really the joy of the book is experiencing the world as Kara figures out things and gets through situations thrown at her.

There is a love triangle. She is only 14 years old. There is talk of mating “sometime in the future” and one boy is the perfect societal candidate and the other is the perfect Romeo. I didn’t hate it actually. At 14 you do tend to have a wider range of choices as you aren’t really even close to being an adult and just the fact someone likes you makes your heart flutter! Each boy was given space to develop their relationship with Kara properly and they occupy their own roles in her life. Really these two relationships will be a big catalyst in the next book of the series if developed right!!

Rewriting the beginning would solve many of the books problems. The creativity is there and the execution almost worked. I look forward to the next in the series where hopefully, these problems will no longer trouble the narrative!

BOTTOM LINE: A worthy voyage into the sci-fi space genre!
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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