Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: Partials by Dan Wells

Title: Partials
Author: Dan Wells
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA (science-fiction)
Why I read it/how I found it: 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.

When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.

Whew! This book is pretty amazing, I have to say.
While Dan Wells isn't a "debut" author, this is his YA debut. I haven't read any of his adult books, but I 've been to several writer events and he's talked, and I've always found him very engaging when talking about writing. He's got it down pretty good.
I love the plot of this book. There's so many different threads that all interweave together to create their world and their conflicts.Oftentimes, I feel like YA science fiction is skimpy on the science. But this is definitely not Partials. Which, ok, I'm no science major, but to me the science here seemed to be sound, and rather than putting together some shoddy details to twist around the author's plot, the science behind this one is logical, and as far as I can tell, pretty legit. 
It takes a little while for the story to really pick up. Part One builds up the world, but for me was just barely keeping me there. Part Two and onto Part Three is when I really became invested in what the characters were doing, because they had a clear path ahead of them, rather than a sort of looping around their world to get a feel of it.
I was shocked a few times during this, with twists I didn't expect to happen. And when you read so much, it can become hard to be shocked. But this one got me a few times.
However, if you're a pretty hard-core YA fan, this might not be the one for you. While YA in the fact that Kira is 16, it doesn't feel YA. Not in the writing style, and certainly not in the characters. Kira's a medic, has a job, and has a boy talking to her about getting married. Their Senate has passed the Hope Act, which demands that women at a certain age (at the start of the book, it's eighteen), must be pregnant in order to produce subjects for them to find a cure for the RM virus and continue the human race. The Senate talks about lowering the age to sixteen, Kira's age. While I've read YA books that has a teenager with a job, or married/thinking of marriage, or pregnant, I've never seen one with all three. Or, for that matter, had the few teenagers in the book acting like adults.
The love story in this one kind of fizzles for me. Kira and Marcus are already dating when the book starts, and I just never got the connection with them. The romantic storyline is very minimal, and I feel might have been thrown in there just for the sake of making the more YA-ish. But I do now ship Kira with another character, Samm. I don't know if it'll happen in other books or not, but I ship it.
Also! This book is great if you're looking for racial diversity. Kira's Indian (she doesn't specify if that means Indian or Native American, but still, diversity!). Several other characters are Japanese, Hispanic, and black. 

Other information: A second book, Fragments, is due out February 2013. Dan Wells's website is here.

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