Adaptation by Malinda Lo

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Adaptation by Malinda Lo

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Enjoyable sci-fi conspiracy thriller that also explores teen sexuality. I found it a refreshing change from the dystopian and urban fantasy fare currently thronging the YA shelves.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1444917943

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Flocks of suicidal birds are throwing themselves at planes right across North America. There are dozens of crashes. Thousands of people die and millions more are stranded or under curfew as the government moves to instil calm. Reese and David are driving, not flying, home along an empty highway in the desert when another crazed bird flies into their car. They crash. And don't wake up for a month. Rescued by a medical military unit, Reese is told that her life was saved by experimental treatments and procedures. Both she and David are made to sign non-disclosure agreements.

When they get home, things feel different. It's hard to put a finger on it but Reese's emotions are heightened. Cuts and bruises heal almost immediately but crashing headaches come thick and fast. Thanks to the NDA, there's no-one to turn to for advice, so Reese simply tries to carry on as normal. Nobody knows why the birds behaved as they did but the social controls are easing up so everyone hopes things will get back to normal soon. Except Reese's conspiracy nut friend, Julian, who doesn't believe a word the President is saying. And his investigations are about to lead Reese into a worldful of trouble...

It made a nice change to read a bit of proper sci-fi. There is so much urban fantasy and dystopia on the YA bookshelves just now, even I need a change. I don't want to give any spoilers but who doesn't like a premise in which a stupid human government makes a mess of something it doesn't understand? Let's just say that the flocks of birds haven't simply appeared out of nowhere. Anyway. Sci-fi is fun and Lo packs in a great deal of action and conspiracy into Adaptation.

X Files-style plot aside, there's also a very sympathetic examination of teen sexuality in this story. Reese begins the book with an almighty crush on David, which she thinks is going nowhere because she messed up in the debate competition. All her hopes have been dashed on that score - or at least, in typical adolescent fashion, that's how Reese sees it. And then she meets Amber and suddenly, the crush on David fades into the background, replaced by all sorts of feelings that she never imagined having. Is Reese gay? Is she bi? Is it just a phase? Or a side effect of the mysterious medical treatment she has received? All Reese knows is that her feelings are real and she can't help but act on them. We need more LGBT storylines and characters in YA fiction and I thought Lo handled this aspect of Adaptation really well.

Fresh and interesting, Adaptation is a great start to a new series. I'm looking forward to next year and the next instalment. If you don't want to wait that long, then look out for the ebook giving Amber's side of the story. You can download Natural Selection in July.

If you're looking for more in the way of sci-fi thrillers, you could try Ultraviolet by R J Anderson. Anderson is a favourite author hereabouts. I think you'd also enjoy The Starlight Conspiracy by Steve Voake.

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