Review: Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Adaptation by Malinda Lo. Little, Brown and Company, 2012. Currently Available.

Genre: Science Fiction

AdaptationFace Value: I don’t like this cover, nor do I really get it. It’s evocative of a creepy tone without being too “scifi” I guess, but with the giant face and half dead looking girl – it doesn’t speak to the book, in my mind, nor does it give you any sense of its complicated, awesome female characters.

Does it Break the Slate? Yes! Oh my goodness, this book totally breaks the slate! All of the teen characters are great – Reese, Amber, David, Julian – all of them are terrific. Plus, I have not seen very many books, YA or otherwise, that include bisexual characters with such complexity and honesty.

Who would we give it to? This is a great book for fans of contemporary realistic fiction who are interested in dipping a toe into some quality science fiction. Essentially meaning that this is firmly within the sci-fi camp, but is written with a firmly character driven, realistic tone.

Review: I love books that surprise me, and this one definitely did. By which I mean, I started this book expecting a pretty standard dystopian narrative, and instead I got a book about aliens and conspiracy theories. A good book about aliens and conspiracy theories. The book starts out in familiar, if absolutely creepy territory. Reese, along with her teacher and her debate partner, are in the Phoenix airport waiting to return to San Francisco after an unsuccessful tournament. But as they wait, they start hearing news of plane crashes across the country. Birds are launching themselves at planes, the planes are crashing, killing everyone on board. With planes grounded across the country, Reese, David, and Mr. Chapman rent a car, planning to drive back, amidst the chaos.

Can I just say, that’s terrifying? I’m actually writing this review from the Phoenix airport, looking out at the tarmac, and imagining those first couple of scenes happening here. It’s incredibly creepy, and making me glad that I’m not actually reading this book on the plane.

What’s cool though, about this book, is that it takes an unexpected turn. When they got in the car, I was expecting an apocalypse of some kind, alongside the journey in Ashes or Ashfall maybe, where they have to fight for their lives against a world that ends. But instead, things go back to normal…kind of. After a car accident, Reese and David find themselves in a mysterious top-secret hospital. They return home, but not without signing some pretty intense nondisclosure agreements. And they try to go back to normal, despite some heightened security measures. Reese meets a girl named Amber, and starts to fall for her. But as she heals, Reese finds herself having strange dreams and questioning what happened to her. And she realizes that she is part of something way bigger than she could ever have imagined.

I don’t want to reveal the details, but the resolutions of what happened in that hospital is pretty satisfying. But what really sets this book apart for me is the downright realistic tone of the writing. This book is just as much about a girl figuring out who she is in terms of her sexuality as it is a book about aliens. Both storylines contribute to character growth and experience in a meaningful way, and I would totally hand this book off to a bisexual teen for a realistic portrayal, despite the sci-fi elements of the plot. The relationships are well constructed and build effectively over the course of the novel.

Lo has a couple of great small inclusions that add to the overall Slatebreaking feel of the book (including, but not limited to, a female president, and a totally awesome single mom character). I’m excited for the next book in this series!

Reviewed from library copy.

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