by Shannon Hale
First sentence: “The warehouse was coffin dark.”
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Release date: March 4, 2014
Review copy given to me by our publishing rep.
Content: There’s some intense action, and a few characters die. But there’s no language (its all “bleeped” out), and no sex. I think it belongs in the YA section at the store (grades 6-8) but I’d give it to curious younger kids.
Maisie Brown has lived a quiet life. She has scientist (read: introverted) parents and is happily homeschooled in her community just outside of Salt Lake City. But she has a secret dream: she wants to be an astronaut. She doesn’t think this will happen: she’s missing one of her arms, after all. But her middle name is Danger (literally) and when she gets an opportunity to enter a contest to win a week at a space camp in Houston, she goes for it.
And gets in.
She arrives at the camp — run by billionaire genius (not playboy) Bonnie Howell, who built the first elevator into space — not knowing that this week will change her life. That she’ll meet the Boy of her Dreams (who’s more than a bit of a jerk). That she’ll meet friends and watch them die. That she’ll become truly Dangerous.
In many ways, this was a breath of fresh air. One gets bogged down in the current trends in young adult/teen literature (read: paranormal or dystopian/post-apocalyptic) and to have something that is honestly science fiction with high tech gadgets, spaceships, and alien lifeforms. With honest-to-goodness average people doing techy, fun, science-based things. It was wonderful. And I really enjoyed Maisie as a character. She’s Latina (her mother’s from Paraguay), she’s smart, she’s confident, she’s disabled and she doesn’t let it get in her way. (In fact, at one point, she makes herself a pretty cool robotic arm.) And Hale does a good job incorporating most of the various elements she throws at us. The “fireteam” is a hodgepodge mix of races and cultures, but none of them seem like stereotypes (to me) and there ends up being a reason for it in the end. And although the love triangle was pretty silly (I think Hale makes it clear that it’s supposed to be silly), I did like that the love interest wasn’t love at first sight.
I did have some quibbles: mostly (and I understand why she did this) that she created a character who swears a lot, but then “bleeped” out all of the swear words. Literally. It pulled me out of the story, every single time. And while I loved that the parents were good people and good parents, they were a bit… corny. Which (again) pulled me out from enjoying story.
But, even with the quibbles, Hale does know how to spin a tale. And I was kept guessing with whom to trust and the ultimate motives. And a Latina superhero girl who kicks butt and is awesome and yet vulnerable without being irritating is, well, awesome.