Author: Alexandra Duncan
Genre: Teen Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Overview: Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
I will admit I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this book. It started off with an interesting concept, but I found it kind of difficult to follow and the language a bit convoluted. Because it was so unlike anything I’d ever read before, I decided to stick with it… And I’m so glad I did. This is definitely not your typical teen read – it followed a story line that almost seemed backwards (which was part of its brilliance), had an odd love-interest conflict (which was oddly refreshing), and as far as I know, is a standalone novel (which is probably why I feel so satisfied with it).
Duncan did a great job building culture and creating a cool atmosphere that was one of my favorite elements of the book. Aboard the transport ships where Ava, the protagonists, grew up, a hierarchal polygamist lifestyle that was once essential to their survival had warped into this weird male-dominated society where she is taught to keep quiet and obey the rules. It was an incredibly oppressive system which was made all the worse by the other women higher up in the pecking order. The intership politics and customs were so feasible that I found that whole portion of the story sufficiently creepy… in a good way. You see, it really made me think about how plausible that society actually was, and appreciate just how good I have it.
As far as character is concerned, although Ava made some really foolish decisions early on, I still admired how her desire to accomplish more than she was allowed was evident right from the start (well, maybe not the start… There was actually a good fifty pages of reminiscing that happened before the story really got going, but I’m choosing to block that out because, odd pacing aside, it was at least interesting). The side characters were unique in their own way, but the focus of this book really was all about Ava.
The earth portion of the story is really when the novel really came alive for me. You see, it was quite remarkable experiencing Earth from an outsider’s perspective (especially since it was an overcrowded, futuristic Earth that had evolved into a melting pot of cultural tradition and technology… It was friggin’ cool). Anyway, watching Ava adapt to a society so different from her own, and to see her growth throughout the story, was easily one of the highlights of this novel.
The more I evaluate this book as a whole, the more I like it. Despite the fact that it was a bit difficult to get into and certain plot-points required a little bit of “just go with it” forgiveness, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It’s one of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve read it, and am quite happy I decided to give it a chance.
Recommended Reading: I would probably only hand this to older teens and adults, as it has more mature moments than most books of this genre, (younger readers might find it a bit risqué). I will say this would be an excellent recommendation for someone looking for something “different.”
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