Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Me on Adaptation
Author: Malinda Lo
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Across North America, birds are hurling themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands die, and fearing terrorism, the United States grounds all flights. Reese is in Arizona with her debate partner, and longtime crush, David when the flights are stopped, trying to get home to San Francisco. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On the drive home, on an empty stretch of highway in the middle of the night in Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights and the car flips over. When Reese and David wake up, they're in a military hospital, but the doctor won't tell them what happened, where they are, or how their injuries were miraculously healed. Things are even stranger when the pair return home. San Francisco is under a curfew, hazmat teams are collecting dead birds, and Reese thinks something's following her. When she unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in a new direction, and threatens to expose a decades-old secret.
Adaptation is unique, an engrossing tale of a girl lost after a near fatal accident and her life afterwards, a life that seems to involve government secrets and being watched constantly. The story draws in readers at the first page, and the tension slowly increases until an explosive and unimaginable climax. Reese's story is very much an exploration of multiple things, the secrets behind her time in the hospital, the cause of the changes in the world around her, and her complicated connections with both David and Amber.
The book is referred to as science fiction, and looking at the summary, readers are left to speculate as to what the science fiction element is. It's not epic science fiction but more of a contemporary and science fiction mix in the vein of Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson, a setting that asks us if there's something more out there right now instead of in the distant future. A combining of the current and the now with the impossible and the unknown.
It's almost common now, a young adult novel where the government is keeping secrets from its citizens. Governments always keep secrets, they believe it's better to keep the people calm and collected, to not rile them or raise their suspicions, but keeping secrets does exactly that. Especially when the world is changing in front of their very eyes and the government provides a weak excuse. Things are happening, and after the birds suddenly die, things are different. Not obviously different, but just a little, just enough for a few eyebrows to lift in curiosity.
Reese is an interesting character, rather capable, and her voice was revealed so wonderfully in the third person limited point of view. The reader still gets the chance to witness all of Reese's troubles, all of her experiences, still gets to feel all of her teenage awkwardness in terms of her relationship with David and her connection with Amber, the change in her environment and how odd she feels, but the third person, the lack of I, allows the reader to follow her, to walk beside her, while still knowing what she is thinking. Everything feels and sounds so immediate, and so the reader is left to travel through the story along with Reese, totally blind and taking everything as it comes.
What initially drew me to this book, beside the science fiction element, is the odd and possibly not exactly triangular love triangle between Reese, David, and Amber. A love triangle where a girl is attracted to and drawn to a guy and a girl. While the world is changing around Reese, while she feels that something might be different with her own body, she's also exploring her own sexuality, at odds with the crush she's had on David and the new and compelling Amber Gray. I want to see more of this in YA in the future, teens in relationships where gender isn't the main factor, where girls can fall in love with girls and boys can fall in love with boys. This is what happens when you're a teenager, you're not just forced to construct a personality and plan out your future but also to determine your sexuality. Teenagers have so much shoved onto their plates during their high school years. Sometimes, it bleeds out into college and even after graduation, but it's all expected to be determined while in high school.
What I got from Reese's relationships and attraction is that gender does not have to be a factor in determining who you're attracted to, not a main factor. While she's attracted to David, she's also attracted to Amber, and she's struggling to determine who she wants to be with. But this is not the main story, this is not an LGTBQ book that happens to have science fiction elements. To me, Adaptation is a sci-fi thriller where a girl is caught up between two different people she might be in love with, and those two just happen to be a guy and a girl.
There's something about books that take place in the present day where something impossible happens and everything changes that draws me in, that makes me think there's something else out there waiting to be discovered. Or revealed. There were questions upon revelations upon questions throughout the book, and the tension continually rose until the ending where everything changed for Reese and David, for everyone. I couldn't stop reading this book, and when it ended, I was frantic for the sequel.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Hachette Book Group Canada.)