I’m so glad to be participating in the blog tour for Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon. You can read my review below, which includes my favorite quote from the book, and keep reading for your chance to enter to win a signed copy of Strangelets!
Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Thriller
Release date: April 9 2013
Publisher: Soho Teen
Source: e-ARC from Publisher
17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer…
17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland…
17-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt…
All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving.
Soon they discover that they’ve been trapped in a future that isn’t of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbors a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light through the eyes of Sophie, Declan, and Anat, the reader is taken on a dark and unforgettable journey into the hearts of teens who must decide what to do with a second chance at life.
In a word: nail-biting tension with interesting characters and lots of action
“Where are we?” Sophie asked.
“This is not Israel,” Anat said in a low voice. “Or Japan.”
It wasn’t Galway, either. Declan had pictured the doors opening onto the ambulance bay of a busy hospital: the UCHG, or Bon Secours, maybe. Instead, he found himself facing a large parking lot bordered by tress. Secions of the pavement had buckled, and cars tilted crazily on them, like polar bears clinging to sinking ice floes. Even the air smelled foreign. Declan swallowed the lump in his throat. He tried to sound reassuring as he said, “Well, at least we’re not trapped in that dungeon anymore.”
The set-up for Strangelets is intriguing indeed: three teens from different countries, each facing imminent death, wake up in a strange hospital-like facility not knowing how they got there. This premise is a great starting point and it could have gone in any number of directions (and yes, I certainly came up with my own scenarios as I was reading!). Much of the fun in reading this book was trying guess what was going on, and it didn’t bother me that I had to wait until nearly the end before things were explained.
The story unfolds from three points of view: those of Anat, Sophie and Declan. Because the characters were not always together, this style of storytelling worked very well. Not only can the reader see what’s happening at different times and in different places, but we also get three distinct characters who react to the danger of their situation in different ways. Sophie is dying from cancer when she gets sucked into a mysterious void and winds up in an abandoned hospital. I loved that she has a different perspective from Declan and Anat, because she suddenly finds herself not only still alive, but feeling healthier than she has in months. Declan is a cute but cocky Irish boy whose dangerous life as a burglar makes him a perfect character to put in this odd situation, where unseen danger seems to be around every corner and survival has suddenly become a way of life. Anat is a brash Israeli soldier who was attemping to escape to Egypt in order to rendezvous with her fiancé, and immediately makes herself the leader of the group. Gagnon sets the characters against each other, sort of like an episode of Survivor, where alliances are forged and enemies are made.
The story revolves around a central mystery: the place the teens find themselves in is a crumbling version of Long Island devoid of any people (except for themselves and three other teens who arrived at the same time, but have smaller roles to play in the story) but inhabited by half-lizard, half-bear creatures that seem to want to kill them. The tension builds steadily as the characters try to sort out what has happened and why they are still alive, when everyone else seems to have vanished. When they finally break out of the locked hospital, the author increases the tension by having them split up. A German boy named Nico wants to search for his father, a scientist who worked at the facility they woke up in, while Anat firmly refuses to go with him and leaves with the strangely quiet and emotionless Japanese girl named Yosh in a different direction. Both groups run into trouble with the lizard creatures, called thrinaxes, barely escaping in some cases. The teens feel certain they will find an adult to help them out, and so they look in abandoned houses and stores, long after the reader realizes that help is probably never coming.
Near the end of the story we finally get some answers and learn what’s happening, but by that time I was worried about how Gagnon was going to wrap up her story with a satisfactory ending in only a handful of pages. And the ending did come too quickly for me. Some scientific explanations were given that felt a little too convenient, and the science part of the story could have been better integrated with some more research on the author’s part. One puzzling scene only pages from the end had me wondering if there might be a sequel on the way, and I honestly would love to read another book in this world, if only to have my questions answered!
Despite some holes in the plot, and the fact that the story felt way too short (another fifty pages would have fleshed it out nicely), Strangelets was a blast to read. I loved the idea, and for anyone who enjoys end-of-the-world stories with time travel and man-eating beasts from another dimension, this book is an exciting and nail-biting read.
Many thanks to the publisher for a review copy.
About the Author:
Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer. Her bestselling adult thrillers THE TUNNELS, BONEYARD, THE GATEKEEPER, and KIDNAP & RANSOM have been published in North America, France, Denmark, Spain, Argentina, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Australia. BONEYARD was a finalist for a 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.
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