Opening: “Kayla hunched on the bank of the Chadi River while below her, Jal, her slender, black-skinned nurture brother, skipped from one deep pool of the river to another, searching for sewer toads.”
I picked this one up because I had seen it sitting on the new book shelf at work and then I saw a comment online that indicated someone had liked it.
The worldbuilding is especially strong here. Sandler has thought out the way that her caste system works, and the implications of it. In addition, the reminders that this actually takes place on another planet worked well, I thought.
I also generally liked the characters. Kayla is spunky and smarter than she sometimes gives herself credit for. The tension between who she sees herself as and the sket (skill-set) that defines her to the outside world was nicely drawn.
And I really liked that, despite the hints at an ominous government, this is pretty clearly properly sci-fi, rather than a dystopia. I don’t think I’ve written my post yet about why I don’t consider most current YA dystopias as sci-fi, but it is brewing. At any rate, I enjoyed seeing this world with its futuristic elements. Moreover, this is clearly a multicultural sci-fi and, while the coloring on the cover is a bit deceptive, the model is obviously black. So yay for that.
There were some things I wasn’t as wild about, though. For one thing, the characters’ motivations didn’t always quite work for me, partly because we weren’t always given enough context to judge them.
In general, I felt that during the second half especially, there was a lot of telling. There would be large chunks of dialogue during which things would be Revealed, or an action sequence during which things would be Discovered. And then, when all of the dialogue/action had ended, one of the characters would react. I wanted to see the reaction during the dialogue/action, even if it’s just hinted at in body language. There were moments when a character would reveal something, and the character to whom it should matter most apparently didn’t have any reaction whatsoever. Just a sentence, like, “Kayla felt her heart beating faster” would have helped a lot there, and therefore would have provided the missing groundwork for the motivations.
The other main problem I have is a bit spoilery, so I will put it after the jump.
In general, I did like this, but I was also disappointed that I wasn’t able to fully buy into the characters’ arcs.
Book source: public library
Book information: Tu Books, 2011; YA
Okay, so here’s my big problem: Devak’s change of heart. It seems so inconsistent with how his character had been depicted beforehand! At the pivotal scene, he realizes that he’s never thought about the GENs before, except as a kind of herd animal. That makes sense, and if Sandler had just stuck with that, it would be fine. But then a few pages later he has apparently been hiding from the truth all this time–he knew there was something wrong and just didn’t admit it. This does not work! I mean, it kind of explains why he was kind to Kayla at the beginning of the story (thereby setting up their inevitable attraction, gah) but it does not work at all with the reaction he felt a few pages ago! In general, I felt that Devak was the flattest and most inconsistent character, but it was this part that really bothered me about him. His arc could have been quite interesting; as it was, I just felt annoyed.