by Karen Bao
To be published by Viking
on February 24, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads: Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar. Then her mother is arrested. The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth-dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider. Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble...
My take: I'm not the most experienced sci-fi reader, but the idea of a book set on the moon really captured my imagination. While I did find much to like about this book, there were also some things that prevented me from loving it.
Dove Arising started out strong. Phaet and her best friend Umbriel are working in the greenhouses, where food for their moon colony is genetically engineered. We also see some cool futuristic technology -- maybe you joke about your phone being glued to your hand? In this world, that's exactly where your personal screen is implanted.
I liked Phaet as a narrator -- she had a precise, intelligent way of telling a story that resonated with me as a reader. She's an interesting character -- obviously smart, yet when she's with Umbriel and her family, she speaks very little.
The conflict in the book also started out strong. Phaet has a younger brother and sister, and the kids are a close-knit group after the death of their father. When Phaet's mother is imprisoned, Phaet either has to come up with money to bail her out, or be sent to a dismal shelter with her siblings. But she thinks of a third alternative: she'll join the military. This was when the book started to unravel a bit for me. The plotline about Phaet's mother gets put on the backburner as she heads to military training.
See if this rings a bell: Phaet and the other military recruits are forced to spar with one another. There's a scoreboard where their standings are posted. Phaet is young (only fifteen) and small of stature, yet she manages to climb up the rankings, and a jealous fellow recruit attacks her.
I know there are probably readers out there who can't get enough of this stuff, but I for one would be happy to call a temporary moratorium on YA books that feature sparring matches with scoreboards. Hello? We're on the moon!! I wanted to read a book about living on the moon, not one about people fighting in a place that felt like it could have been anywhere. (After a while, the training shifted and there was a little bit of flying.) By the end of the book, the story returned to the prior matter of Phaet's mom and siblings, but by that point I'd lost the thread of that plot and when it was revealed that a certain character did something bad, I had to page back to figure out who that person was.
While I'm not sure this trilogy is going to be for me, I definitely think this book -- and its writer -- have many strengths. I did like the writing a lot and I thought the worldbuilding had promise, but the plot took too many detours for my taste.
Curious? I'll be giving this away for one of my Freebie Friday choices tomorrow, so be sure to stop by!