What I read in April, part one: 172 Hours on the Moon, Stolen Away and Night School

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
Three teenagers are going on the trip of a lifetime. Only one is coming back.

It’s been more than forty years since NASA sent the first men to the moon, and to grab some much-needed funding and attention, they decide to launch an historic international lottery in which three lucky teenagers can win a week-long trip to moon base DARLAH 2—a place that no one but top government officials even knew existed until now. The three winners, Antoine, Midori, and Mia, come from all over the world.

But just before the scheduled launch, the teenagers each experience strange, inexplicable events. Little do they know that there was a reason NASA never sent anyone back there until now—a sinister reason. But the countdown has already begun. . .

I think this novel is really great if you imagine it as a movie. You know when you're watching a creepy sci-fi film (at home, alone, late in the evening), and the entire time you're yelling at the TV, saying 'that's impossible! As if that could happen in the real world!' (I'm not going to bother listing the numerous impossibilities.) But at the same time you're terrified? What this book lacks in believability and character development, it makes up for with creepiness. (It also has the sort of ending I love, but based on other reviews I've read, apparently other people don't feel the same.) I loved the concept, too.

In terms of the prose, I always worry that books lose something when they're translated from another language into English (which I imagine would be an incredibly difficult job. I would love to be able to read the translations of my novel and see how it changes). I found this to be written very simply, very straight-forward, and I wonder whether it would have had more nuance and depth in the original Norwegian.

It seems to be much more a sci-fi thriller that's also for young adult readers than a novel for young adult readers that's also a sci-fi thriller. The development of the characters is very much secondary to the scariness. Worth picking up if you are looking for something incredibly creepy to read, and much more plot than character-driven.

Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey
For seventeen years, Eloise Hart had no idea the world of Faery even existed. Now she has been abducted and trapped in the Rath of Lord Strahan, King of Faery. Strahan was only meant to rule for seven years, as Faery tradition dictates, and then give up his crown to another. But he won't comply, and now chaos threatens both worlds.

The only one who can break his stranglehold on the Faery court is his wife. . . Eloise's aunt Antonia. Using Eloise to lure Antonia, Strahan captures his wife, desperate to end the only threat to his reign. Now Eloise must become the rescuer. Together with her best friends Jo and Devin, she must forge alliances with other Fae, including a gorgeous protector named Lucas, and Strahan's mysterious son, Eldric-who may or may not betray them.

Don't you hate it when your family keep the fact that you're a faerie princess a secret from you your entire life, and then some bloke shows up with magical powers and has to protect you from some other guys? And then they, like, fall hopelessly and irrevocably in love with you despite the fact that you don't really think you're all that? Even though it's fairly standard paranormal romance, it's fun and fast-paced and the ending is conclusive! How I love a standalone novel! It's very heavy on the romance (Lucas was all right, but Eldric was creepy - please, please can people stop writing YA novels where the love interest is an absolute tool?), but has plenty of action scenes and adventure and fun little twists. The main characters are supposed to be seventeen, but I think a lot of their behaviour and narration suggested younger, and I think it's perhaps suitable for the younger end of the YA spectrum. (As an aside, I love that the faery people can magically teleport between the different realities. Teleportation is the best.)

Night School by C.J. Daugherty

Sometimes school is murder.

Allie Sheridan's world is falling apart. She hates her school. Her brother has run away from home. And she's just been arrested.


This time her parents have finally had enough. They cut her off from her friends and send her away to a boarding school for problem teenagers.

But Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Its rules are strangely archaic. It allows no computers or phones. Its students are an odd mixture of the gifted, the tough and the privileged. And then there's the secretive Night School, whose activities other students are forbidden even to watch.

When Allie is attacked one night the incident sets off a chain of events leading to the violent death of a girl at the summer ball. As the school begins to seem like a very dangerous place, Allie must learn who she can trust. And what's really going on at Cimmeria Academy.

This is actually not a paranormal novel. I was incredibly surprised. There were words about a 'brooding loner' in the blurb; a pale, serious-looking girl on the cover; and the title! Night School? How could it not be about vampires? Yeah, it's not. I spent the entire book waiting for vampires and none turned up. I wasn't disappointed - I'm not generally big on paranormal - but I wonder if this has been done consciously to boost sales? I imagine YA paranormal romance generally sells better than YA suspense, though a big portion of the novel concerned romance and a love triangle, and I think this book is targeting the paranormal romance reading audience, because it has a lot of very similar themes.

I found the love triangle really quite worrying - both of the male love interests are creepy and awful and treat Allie terribly, and then really nicely, as if that makes up for it. But it's very similar to a lot of paranormal romances, except these characters aren't also vampires or werewolves. Allie's character shifts dramatically about two chapters in - the bad girl she's purported to be in the blurb quickly changes into someone who is generally well-behaved. It's an intriguing start to a series, but very little was resolved at the end of the book - various creepy elements and mystery worked well, and it was scary and sinister in parts (and the involvement of Allie's brother, Christopher, was interesting), but I found that to be secondary to the romance elements. Worth reading if you're generally a fan of YA paranormal romance - it's basically that, minus the paranormal, with a bit of mystery thrown in. I'm interested to read the sequel(s), if only to see how the various unanswered questions are resolved.
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