It has always seemed odd to me that there are so few YA books about gymnastics (or if there are books out there, they're really hard to find; believe...moreIt has always seemed odd to me that there are so few YA books about gymnastics (or if there are books out there, they're really hard to find; believe me, I've looked). This is middle grade, not YA, and despite the amount of time spent in the gym there wasn't all that much gymnastics, but...well.
This is the only one of the series that I've read, and it's number 14, so maybe I'd have gotten more out of it had I started at the beginning (and were I not way past the target age range). As it was, it felt quite formulaic -- just one in a long series of books that hit on a different hot-button topic every week. It assumes that the reader knows the characters already (or will read enough of the series to watch mini-dramas play out over the course of several books), but there just isn't enough space to develop issue and resolution, either. Feels like a potentially interesting idea that was never properly fleshed out.(less)
Nolan has it rough. His parents struggle to pay for his epilepsy medication -- and he can't tell them that he's not epileptic, because the truth is mu...moreNolan has it rough. His parents struggle to pay for his epilepsy medication -- and he can't tell them that he's not epileptic, because the truth is much stranger. He lost part of a leg when he was younger as a result of his not-epilepsy. He can't maintain a normal life.
Instead, every time he closes his eyes, Nolan sees Amara's world.
Amara has it, arguably, even rougher. Her tongue was cut out years ago -- she's a slave -- and she's constantly on the run with Jorn, the man who rules her, and Cilla, the princess she serves. Jorn sometimes leaves her be; sometimes he is brutal. Cilla can die from even the tiniest cut, and Amara must take on Cilla's injuries -- and much worse -- to prevent that.
The book has a lot going for it. Queer characters, characters of colour, characters with disabilities -- all of which are describing, but not defining, factors. Amara is in something of a relationship when the book opens, but it's a realistic one, a relationship born of situation rather than Twu Wuv. Nolan is neither superstar jock nor arty drama boy; both he and Amara are complex, fully realised characters with flaws as well as strengths.
But the point when I knew I was fully on board with this book came about halfway though, when I realised that I had no idea how it was going to end. I know that doesn't sound like much, but I read a lot, and a lot of YA, and much of it is very, very predictable. Here I could be reasonably certain that they were going to figure it out, one way or another -- but I didn't know how, or at what cost. When romance flared up, it wasn't clear whether it was sustainable.
I did find the climax a bit hard to follow in places, as they figure out so much in such a short span of time. But there's great worldbuilding -- the kind where you don't know every detail of the world, but you know that the author does, and she's giving you enough to go on but leaving out the stuff that's superfluous to the story. I'm not usually one much for fantasy (science fiction? Not sure what's most accurate here), but I was really pleasantly surprised.
I received a free copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway.(less)