The Final Six

By Alexandra Mornir

Last month I received the coolest book box ever from Beacon Book Box, and with it, their book of the month: THE FINAL SIX. Immediately I could tell it was right up my alley: it’s YA/SF, my favorite genre, and involved a trip to Europa, one of my favorite moons (I even have a poster of it on my wall!). It took me a while to sit down and read it, but when I did, I couldn’t put it down.

Summary

 

36491465When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being upfront with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

Musings

The world is at war with the environment. Every day, new reports of devastating Tsunamis and destructive earthquakes fill the news. Earth is no longer a loving world: it’s turned against us, and wants us gone.

When Leo and Naomi are drafted by the new International space committee, they are given a once in a lifetime shot of leaving our world and forging a new home for mankind. Leo is a swimmer, strong and athletic, who dives the flooded streets of Rome in search of treasures to scavenge just to stay alive. Naomi is an Iranian-American science prodigy, smart as a whip and stubborn to match. She’d rather stay on earth to protect her brother, who cannot get the medical care he needs as the world is focused on other things, but knows this is her only chance to see what is really going on with this mysterious trip to Europa.

I loved the characters here. They were instantly engaging, though sometimes annoyingly flawless. Then again, these are the best teenagers on the planet, they’re allowed to be geniuses. While being run through over the top simulations in order to test and train the candidates, Leo and Naomi form a strong bond and fight to find the answers to secrets being kept by them: what is this vaccine they’re being given? And why is the mission being pushed forward so rapidly?

The fantastic scientific realism, proof of the author’s formidable research, was a bit of a double-edged sword. Because of her attention to detail, it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief when things appeared unlikely. For example, how quickly events are moving forward, or the ‘training’ the teens are receiving. I suppose we’re not seeing everything they’re being put through, but I felt like they weren’t being properly prepared for their mission: however, the details about Europa really brings some awesome planetary science to the reader, even if they don’t think they’re into it before the read. The book manages to highlight science without being bogged down by it.

All in all, it’s a fantastically fun read. The last three chapters really had me hanging on the edge of my seat, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out. I really loved Leo and Naomi’s relationship, and I find myself hoping things work out between them. Let me know when I can get book 2!

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From a Distant Star

by Karen McQuestion 

Reviewed by SA

Aliens. Did that catch your attention? I’m a sucker for a good alien story, and was so, so pleased to find From a Distant Star on my reading list. And boy, this book is CUTE. I think that;s the best word to describe it! It’s a romance with barely any romance; an action story with only mild action; it’s a story of love, friendship, and a quest for home. And it’s so amazingly sweet.

A brief summary

Lucas is dying of cancer.
As he nears the end, the impossible happens. An alien crash lands in his yard and uses his body as host in order to troubleshoot a way off of this strange planet known as Earth. Emma, Lucas’s longtime girlfriend, knows right away that the man who came back from the brink of death was not the Lucas she knew and loved. It doesn’t take long for her to piece things together, and determine something has to be done: the alien must be sent home in order for her to get the love of her life back.

Together, she and ‘Scout’, the alien who’s taken over Lucas’s body, must road trip to the one place they know must be able to help. But Scout’s arrival has not gone unnoticed: strange government agencies are on their tail, with nefarious plans for the alien being. Can Emma get Scout home in time, and bring her love back to life?

The premise of this novel is awesome. For once, the aliens who visit us wish us no harm, searching only to communicate and befriend us. Scout tries to slip into Lucas’s life, to quietly observe rather than taking over and trying to run it himself. He only wants to understand and learn. I absolutely love this. I’m so tired of the earth-hating alien trope!

As I said earlier, this novel is so cute, incredibly sweet. Scout and Emma form a bond you would not expect. They grow to respect each other, and even love each other, though platonically. They learn from each other and grow from their experiences.

The plot itself is a little bit… simple? This is not a bad thing, no, but the threats never seem that threatening. Scout has a certain advantage that doesn’t leave much room for deceit, so there’s never any worry whether a character is anything but who they say they are. There are moments of action, fight scenes, car chases, even threats and capture, but there’s never any doubt about who’s going to end up on top. It’s unrealistic that so many people would be so selfless in helping Scout and Emma.

Emma herself I actually feel divided about. On the one hand, she’s resourceful and smart, knows how to hold her own, and seems like a very believable characters. What seems less believable is her obsession with Lucas. It’s completely understandable that she’s in love, that she worships her boyfriend, but at times it was borderline terrifying. She mentions more than once that “other people can’t have him, he’s mine” (usually about classmates who find him very attractive, because he’s so hot) and that they both know they will be together forever (it’s been a year, and he’s been dying of cancer). While she manages to appear independent, there are hints of a co-dependent personality. She literally cannot live without Lucas.

Which only seems to make the book more interesting, because Lucas himself only appears for tiny amounts of time, in Flashbacks and so on. It’s a love story where the main love interest is being possessed for 99% of the time (or playing host to an alien entity, which is pretty different). So while Emma’s rants about undying love can be pretty obnoxious, the lack of clingy romance balances things out.

Scout himself is a fantastic character. He’s a non humanoid alien (huzzah!) who cares (sometimes called too sensitive) about people and just wants to learn and fit in. Sometimes he acts like a small child, other times like a wise old man, and always like an adorable alien who doesn’t know heads from tails on this strange planet. I would love to read more about him.

All in all, while a simple plot, this novel had great premise and was a fun, fast read. I recommend it for fans of YA who want something fun to devour. CUTE ALIEN ROAD TRIP, YALL!