Sunday, July 3, 2011

We’re Referring to this Affected Dimension as Solidity

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Solid Trilogy
Book 1
By Shelley Workinger
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Series Website

Clio (Calliope) Kaid thought everything was normal. Well, as normal as having a famous writer for a mom could be. But between the moving around the country and changing schools every year, everything else seemed to be pretty clear cut.

That's when the government tells her that she was involved in an unauthorized genetic experiment, and that she's to report to a secure location, along with 99 other teens, so that they can help with any abnormalities caused by this alteration.

So it's off to a new school once again. At least this time she'll be a freak among freaks, right? Nothing like sharing an unknown deformity to bring about teen bonding. And she'll need those bonds if she's going to get to the bottom of a conspiracy on the compound. One that might even date back to before she was born...

Calliope, better known as Clio (though, I find Calli an equally valid option), is your basic teen heroine. Personality-wise, she ranks a bit on the meek side, though she does have sarcasm and sass when the pressure isn't on. In a fight, her super power (invisibility) doesn't exactly lend itself to fierceness, so her main strength draws mainly on loyalty to her friends.

And these sure are good friends to have. Bliss can be a tad annoying when the pressure mounts, but her heart is definitely in the right place. Garrett (my favorite) is a jock and a joker, so if you can get past his sometimes abrasive personality, you'll not be short of laughs. Miranda is definitely the least likable of the group, her main weakness being tact, but she's intelligent and is slowly getting the hang of having friends.

And then there's Jack... Charismatic, handsome, multi-talented, and very interested in Clio. Their romance was very sweet, though a bit predictable. Jack was very much a support (literally at times) for Clio, but I'd have liked to see things go a little slower and keep her more independent even after he comes into the picture. I found it particularly interesting that his powers are still undiscovered, yet he possesses enough strength of character to power through when he needs to.

Teens with super-powers and government conspiracies are hardly new concepts, but I enjoyed Solid's take on things. Altering a specific chromosome certainly sounds plausible, and after years of accepting toxic waste or microwaves gave people super-powers, it's not that much of a stretch that an altered bit of DNA could do the same. But where most novels have the teens struggling to control their new abilities, Clio and the others are instead learning how to awaken them. In fact, there seem to be no consequences of having powers, and had the government not told them they would have lived normally...

But having the government involved makes everything better. I'm sure for anyone not directly involved in the military or government, it's all too easy to accept that there are things being kept from us. We don't see where all the money is spent, we have information withheld for the sake of National Security, and they have seemingly limitless resources at their disposal... How could they not be running secret experiments?

Still, they're trying to make up for it. The military compound-turned-campus where the kids were sent was nearly a character in and of itself. I loved picturing the old architecture of the dorms paired with the high-tech medical and athletic facilities. Granted, Clio said the old buildings weren't exactly picturesque, but a girl can dream, right? And though I'm normally not into sports, I'd totally want to take a run in that "gym" they have. Then again, Miranda's right, they totally needed a pool.

Unfortunately, there were also a few small issues I had with the book...

Firstly, as someone who has had issues with blood draws for a few years now (small, hard-to-find, easily breakable veins), the medical scene was about the least believable thing I've read. Sure, in theory everybody's veins are in the same place, but the doc's at least gotta look at the arm before stabbing away and getting a successful blood draw.

Then there was the dialogue—it didn't feel wholly believable at times. I know, teen language is hard, and what may seem real to one person may seem stilted to another. To me, there were parts where it just didn't seem like genuine conversations. Partly, I think there was too much 'thinking' going on between the dialogue. It seemed like Clio had to reflect on absolutely everything she said, or her cohorts said, as they said it. A bit chunky for my tastes, sorry.

Another concern I have is the obvious dating within the book. There are a lot of references to current pop culture (Bush twins, Jonas Bros, New Moon, etc.) that I'm not sure will translate well in the future. Sure, pretty much all of the references should make the teens of now giggle or at least nod knowingly, but I don't know that it will have the same relevance 5+ years from now.

Okay, that looks/sounds like a lot, but really the only major problem I had was the pacing. The prologue offers enough of a tease that got me interested in reading, but then nothing happens for the entire first half of the book. Well, not nothing, but nothing regarding the 'special abilities' the teens are supposedly discovering. Every time I thought it was the perfect time for the powers to suddenly manifest...nothing.

Unfortunately the ending was equally aggravating, with the main conflict being resolved without much conflict at all. I don't want to give away too much, but suffice it to say, a lot of talk and not much action. In fact, the resolution felt more like an exposition dump than a discovery by the characters. Not exactly the full character journey I was hoping or expecting...

Still, overall I found Solid an entertaining read. I'd recommend it for those who like YA Romance with a slightly Sci-Fi twist. Language, sex, and gore are practically non-existent, so I'd say this is appropriate for a middle-school reader, however, I'd recommend it for older readers only because I think the pacing is geared toward more patient readers. Though a little rough at times, Solid was a solid introduction to endearing characters and an intriguing concept, which I look forward to exploring further in future installments.

Approximate Reading Time: 4.5 hours