Adaptation - Malinda Lo

Birds are attacking planes and dropping dead from the sky. Reese and David are trapped in an airport when the planes are grounded, and make a mad dash to drive home. On the way, a bird attacks their car, and they crash. Waking up a month later, Reese finds that she and David have weird new abilities and are being stalked by the government, and also by someone who is not the government…

 

Um… not sure if my above summary really describes this book that well. Sure, all the above happens, but it’s a lovely slow burn. The car doesn’t even crash until about Chapter Five or so. The book is a mish-mash of sci-fi, thriller, suspense, and contemporary romance.

 

I really loved the way Lo wrote all the relationships to Reese. Reese and her mother have an amazingly strong, awesome relationship, and she’s not absent like other YA parents. Reese’s relationships with her love interests (love triangle alert!) are also achingly realistic, from the embarrassment of a first crush to the swooning of a first kiss and ‘coming out’ to your mother.

 

Lo’s writing has the perfect balance of description, depth and action to move this book forward and she’s not afraid to skimp on the non-action details. That’s not to say that this book is primarily a romance, because it’s not. The romance definitely takes a back seat, but of course there must be some time dedicated to it. But it’s not like the first half is relationship and the second half is action, it’s all weaved through and to be honest, I thought the blossoming lesbian relationship was really sweet. Lo wrote in third person limited which made the inclusion of news items Reese was reading a clever way to insert the the extra information needed instead of switching to omniscience.

 

I’m not sure I can really talk about what happens in the second half of the novel without spoiling, so suffice to say that I was pretty much horrified when Reese’s liberty was denied over and over, and there was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it, which was the most terrifying aspect of the novel: sanctioned kidnapping and mandatory testing. I’m still struggling to understand why anyone would do such a thing to two minors without their (or their guardian’s) prior consent, and I also have an enormous pet peeve about the representation about a particular group of characters, and even in a sci-fi novel where I can accept birds attacking airplanes and psychic abilities, my suspension of disbelief will only go so far.

 

But you know what? Lo’s an amazing writer who doesn’t shy away from not whitewashing or, I dunno, ‘sexuality-washing’ her cast. Her cast of characters are as diverse as real people, with all different sexualities and all different colours, which is a lovely thing to see – and even a female President of the United States. Lo’s more progressive than most other writers out there. This book is clearly designed to set up something epic in the second book, but until I whittle down my massive to-reads pile I won’t be getting to it.

 

Thanks to Hodder Children’s Books and Netgalley for providing this advanced reader copy for an honest review.