It should be noted that Karen Bao was only 19 when this was published. I’m not saying that in a derogatory way. I’m saying that in a “We should be reaIt should be noted that Karen Bao was only 19 when this was published. I’m not saying that in a derogatory way. I’m saying that in a “We should be really impressed” way. Because Bao has a good amount of skill as a writer. There are a few areas she needs to work on, but overall, she has a bright future ahead of her.
Now, onto Dove Arising. Like much of YA lately, it tells of a dystopian future. This time, it’s on the moon. And it’s a clever set up. It’s alien enough yet it is also familiar. It's a place where resources are naturally limited and where people may not question how their lives are run as long as everything runs smoothly. Everything is orderly and controlled by a shadowy council.
One of the areas I felt Bao needs a little more improvement on is with her main character and narrator, Phaet. It can be hard to balance narrating and character building when writing that way. She also needs to work on balancing “showing” and “telling,” something all writers struggle with. For example: Phaet doesn’t speak much. And this appears to be a Big Deal. But we are told this. When Phaet does speak, it’s not as big of a deal as it should’ve been. It should’ve been a jolt to the reader. But it lost that impact because it was in the first person. We always knew her inner thoughts. So we heard her voice. It would’ve been more impactful if it had been told in third person and then she spoke.
Just my opinion.
Moving on to more positive aspects. Ms. Bao’s story really takes off once Phaet joins the military. Probably because Phaet really comes into her own there. She finds her inner strength and new friends. Including Wes, who had been part of the team that had taken her mother away at the start of the story. Phaet isn’t keen to trust him but he still takes her under his wing. He helps her improve so she can remain in the military. She needs the money to help her family with their mother, the sole provider, in medical so her siblings don’t end up in Shelter. But Wes still wants to beat her, to get the top spot amongst their military class.
Wes and Phaet’s friendship is interesting. It feels more real than the one with Umbriel, who we are told is her best friend. Umbriel wants to be more than friends and makes it clear. Phaet…just seems to go with it because it’s easy. Because she knows Umbriel and he’s safe. She also doesn’t seem to harbor much by way of romantic feelings. For most of the book, I wondered if Bao had made an aromantic, asexual character. But then there were hints of Phaet and Wes having feelings for each other. Which is fine but I would’ve liked to see an asexual character. It would've been a nice change of pace.
There’s a sense of danger throughout Phaet’s military training. It’s well known recruits can get injured and/or die during training. A recruit does die during Phaet’s, scaring the recruits. But they continue on, with command acting like nothing happened. This is a hint that something is wrong, including the fact that Phaet’s mother is arrested upon being released from medical. Her mother is a journalist and is charged with unpatriotic writing. That means she wrote something that didn’t flat out praise life on the Moon. This sets Phaet off on a new course in her life--trying to figure out just what is going on in their home.
She is very good at action sequences, which is impressive. Many writers struggle with them. Bao draws the reader in and makes hearts pound as Phaet’s..fate…is up in the air. Just like Phaet, the readers don’t know who to trust. It’s a great sprint to the finish. ...more