By Shannon Hale
Published 2014 by Bloomsbury
Yes, her middle name really is "Danger" - Maisie Danger Brown. Despite the awesome middle name, though, Maisie is not really in the habit of living dangerously. Until some bizarre events at astronaut boot camp. Now, Maisie is on the run - and possibly responsible for saving the world.
Okay, I was pretty sure that this was the first book by Shannon Hale that I'd read - until I looked at my Goodreads and remember the atrocity that was Austenland (one of her novels for adults). I really didn't enjoy that book, and it's probably a good thing I forgot it was written by her until after I finished this one. That being said, her teen books have always seemed well-received, so, when I spotted this new one as an e-galley, I figured I'd give it a shot.
To be fair to this book, I was completely on board with it in the beginning. When the book started, Maisie was just about the most bad-ass heroine I could think of. She's a homeschooled, multicultural girl with an interest in science who happens to have been born without one of her hands. And she's clever. I wanted to read about this character. I was fully prepared to root for her throughout this book's 400 pages. I wanted to learn more about all these aspects of her as a person, explore how they impacted her and how they would impact the events of the story.
And then...something went wrong. Maisie turns into a character almost unrecognizable from those first chapters. All those interesting bits about her character? They turn out to be exactly that - interesting bits about her character. They are almost all completely ignored once the "action" begins to take place. In fact, Maisie's disability is "cured" during her stay at boot camp, which just doesn't sit right with me. I don't think any of the interesting bits about her need to be the focus (i.e. you can write a character with a disability but the story doesn't have to be about that disability), but they also shouldn't be there just to add some sense of diversity to your book. A strange and, in my opinion, awful romance develops. And the plot goes absolutely haywire. It's my understanding that this was Hale's first foray into science fiction. I don't think it really panned out for her. The plot that develops in this book just gets more and more ridiculous as the book goes on. The character development completely stops - Maisie is the only character I feel like I have a real understanding of, but, like I said, she completely changes from the beginning, and not for the better. Maybe it doesn't help that this book goes into hard science fiction territory and that is definitely not my thing. But, mostly, it just all seems crazy. I just don't have good feelings about this book and am starting to rethink the three stars I gave it on Goodreads.
One last thing: this book also toes the line between upper middle-grade and young YA, but, ultimately, I don't think I'd put it in my middle-grade collection. The romance veers into really inappropriate territory (I don't want to give anything away, but there is a great deal of manipulation involved) and the way Maisie describes her romantic feelings made me forget she was supposed to be a young teen (I think she is 14? but someone correct me if I'm wrong!).
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.