"A sci-fi novel that soars along with a teenage heroine whose imperfections help make her believable and endearing. (starred review)"– Kirkus Reviews
In this YA novel from Swanson (Perilous: A Ripple Novel, 2015, etc), a ballet-obsessed teenager in Oregon confronts dangerous sirens, her family’s mysterious history, and, most frightening of all, the need to forgive her mom.
Foulweather, Oregon, is “bucolic without being idyllic,” the sort of town Portlanders visit only if they take a wrong turn. But Foulweather is where Giselle Chekhov and her ballet-fixated family live—despite the danger presented by the enigmatic (and rarely seen) sirens. Giselle’s mother runs the ballet studio there. A star dancer, Giselle seems on track for the title role in a story ballet about menacing spirits, the very piece that she is named after. (And, according to her grandmother, the reason why the sirens are being seen again.) The students in levels four and five at the studio “would all kill to dance the part of Giselle. Giselle Chekhov, however, wouldn’t have to. The role had always been hers,” Giselle muses. But when her mom declares that Giselle is too tall for ballet, she is forced to attend the drama class at her performing arts high school. Fortunately, there’s a sexy boy in the class who makes her feel like she matters. Unfortunately, she has to process her mother’s ballet betrayal, her aching for her dancing life, and the maybe supernatural sirens who visit her in her dreams. Swanson sensitively captures a particular teen experience, detailing Giselle’s occasional bafflement over her immigrant grandmother and mother’s Russian ways, and her drive to succeed at ballet. But while Giselle may face quintessential (or, depending on the reader’s point of view, clichéd) teen dilemmas like getting into romantic trouble, she remains an engaging character, with her love for her younger sister especially well drawn. Swanson’s prose is strong and insightful. (And funny too at times: those who spent time in high school drama class may recognize the truth in Giselle’s arch remark, “Drama students in tears, thought Giselle. What a surprise.”) The author doesn’t offer many reasons to fear for Giselle—for instance, the audition she feels nervous about ends in a standing ovation. But there’s such a strong voice to the characters that it’s a pleasure to spend time with them.
A delightful drama with well-done supernatural elements that heighten the themes of anger and forgiveness.
A 17-year-old pilot with a history of crashing her craft holds a planet’s fate in her hands when a human settlement on Mars runs low on food.
Flight-obsessed Jessamyn Jaarda faces the biggest mission of her life in the fourth YA sci-fi novel from Swanson (Unfurl, 2012, etc.). Fired from pilot training for crashing one craft and praised for doing the same to another, Jess inspires unpredictable reactions in people. Maybe that’s because Jess lives, as she flies, by pure instinct, and no one knows whether that trait will enable her to save her planet when, because of potential starvation for a human settlement on Mars, she must fly to Earth on a food raid. Along with her brother, however, the red-haired teenager has the courage to attempt the mission and stick with it when it goes terribly wrong. Swanson paces this story beautifully, weaving exposition tightly into the plot as disaster interrupts everyday routines. Despite the strangeness of the Martian environment, the novel quickly establishes the humanity of Jess and other characters, as when Jess tries and fails to help her brother resist a bout of claustrophobia or when she first locks eyes with her planet’s only dog and feels something sweep through her: “A something that reminded her of taking her craft toward breaking day or of watching Phobos as the swift moon zipped across the night sky. The dog was...wondrous.” At first, Jess sees everything through the lens of her obsession with flight, but she becomes far too multifaceted, distractible and passionate to be mistaken for an archetype. Watching her grow and struggle to survive makes this book hard to put down.
A sci-fi novel that soars along with a teenage heroine whose imperfections help make her believable and endearing.