Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Dangerous by Shannon Hale is a YA science fiction book and the first I've read by the author. I picked it up a while ago (I think it was as part of my "let's read all the books with disabled protagonists" thing in the lead up to Defying Doomsday). I finally got around to reading it, partly because I was in the mood for some YA, and partly because of the recent announcement that she'll be writing Captain Marvel and Squirrel Girl tie in novels. I figured I should make sure her writing was all right before getting too excited.

Maisie ‘Danger’ Brown needs excitement. When she wins a harmless-sounding competition to go to astronaut boot camp, that’s exactly what she gets . . . But she never imagined it would feature stumbling into a terrifying plot that kills her friends and might just kill her too. Now there’s no going back. Maisie has to live by her middle name if she wants to survive – and she’ll need to be equally courageous to untangle the romance in her life too. A clever, suspenseful thriller-adventure by New York Times bestselling author and master storyteller Shannon Hale.

The thing that stood out for me most, reading Dangerous, was how not formulaic it was. For whatever reason, I was expecting a fairly formulaic read set in space about a girl with no arm. It wasn't set in space either, except very briefly. It was about a girl with no hand on one of her arms, so that part was right, although note how it's not mentioned in the blurb while the space bit is. No wonder I was surprised. Actually, the only expected element of this book was the part with the world being saved. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

Maisie is a smart teenager whose two scientist parents have decided to home-school her. (And hence she has one friend, a fellow home-school-ee.) She enters a competition on the back of a cereal box to go to astronaut boot camp and wins a spot. I always enjoy female protagonists that are into science and Maisie definitely doesn't disappoint on that front.

In terms of plot, I was surprised that the astronaut boot camp was over pretty quickly and was just a set up for the next phase of the novel. Even more surprising was that the next phase was also fairly transient. (I realise these statements are vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers.) The story does not take the most direct route to get to the end, which kept me wondering what would happen next until more than half way through (at which point the saving the world part became more obvious).

I liked the romantic story line in Dangerous for a few reasons. First it was absolutely not the main part of the story, second, it wasn't a love triangle, despite how it first may have appeared. Most importantly, Maisie prioritises saving the world and the safety of her family over any boys she may or may not have feelings for. She's also not too blindly trusting, especially once she has reason to be suspicious, which I appreciated.

Oh and I should mention the science. There was only one physics thing the author got wrong that bothered me (the space elevator trip did not take them high enough to be weightless, they would have felt a diminished gravitational pull the entire time). Which did bother me but didn't make me angry, just disappointed. It's at the level of physics knowledge that the characters themselves should've had, which is the most irritating part. But everything else was fine or at least hand-wavingly explained away by alien magic.

I quite enjoyed Dangerous and I am definitely interested in reading more books by Shannon Hale. I'm not sure all her books are for me — for example, I'll stick with the movie of Austenland and probably won't bother with the books for younger readers, but I am definitely up for Captain Marvel and Squirrel Girl. Marvel tie-ins aside, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for any future books from Hale that align with my interests. I definitely recommend Dangerous to all fans of YA science fiction.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Bloomsbury
Series: No.
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from iBooks

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