Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Dangerous by Shannon Hale is an uncharacteristic foray into science fiction by one of my favorite fantasy authors.

Maisie Danger Brown dreams of going to space camp, but she knows her parents could never afford it. When she wins a contest she read about on the back of a cereal box, she is ecstatic -- she'll get to study advanced physics and quantum mechanics, and learn about space from the creators of the Beanstalk, the world's first and only space elevator. At space camp, she's grouped with three other campers into a "fireteam" who complete challenges together. It's a camper outside her fireteam who most intrigues her, though: Jonathan Wilder, a rich young playboy who becomes Maisie's space camp romance. When Maisie's fireteam wins all of their challenges, they are taken on a special trip to see the base of the Beanstalk. Jonathan, as best performing individual camper, is also invited. And it's at the Beanstalk where things start to go in directions Maisie could never have anticipated. Bonnie Howell, the Beanstalk's eccentric creator, allows the campers into the space elevator and then takes them on a joyride up into space, where she allows them to explore the docking station and even handle some mysterious, possibly alien technology mined from an asteroid that traveled into Earth's orbit. When the alien tech reacts unexpectedly with the five teens, they are bound together for a purpose they could never have anticipated: they must save Earth from a coming alien attack.

This book has plenty of action and, yes, danger (Maisie's middle name is a source of much hilarity), and even some romance, though nothing readers on the young end of the YA spectrum won't be able to handle. I enjoyed the read, but it fell short on a few points. The characterization of some of the adults really didn't work, for me -- they made some decisions that just didn't make sense. There were a few weak spots in the worldbuilding, too, that could have used a little more clarification. I think young teens going into this book without a lot of expectations will really love it, but more experienced readers, especially those who have read a lot of sci-fi, will find this book lacking in some ways.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

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