Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's a Link - a Telepathic Link

Book 1
By Imogen Howson

Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

When Elissa learns her telepathic twin is the subject of government experiments, the girls find themselves on the run with secrets worth killing for in this futuristic, romantic thriller.

Elissa used to have it all: looks, popularity, and a bright future. Now, all she has is nightmarish visions and unexplained bruises. Finally, she's promised a cure, and a surgery is scheduled. But on the eve of the procedure, she discovers the truth behind her visions: She's seeing the world through another girl's eyes. A world filled with pain and wires and weird machines. Elissa follows her visions, only to find a battered, broken girl on the run. A girl—Lin—who looks exactly like Elissa, down to the matching bruises. A twin she never knew existed.

Elissa helps Lin evade the government agents who are ruthlessly tracking her down, but they're struggling to avoid capture, and soon Elissa is forced to turn to the only person who can help: Cadan, her brother's infuriating, arrogant best friend, and new graduate of the SFI space flight academy. Cadan is their one chance at safety. But Lin is too valuable to let go, and Elissa has knowledge that is too dangerous. The government will stop at nothing to get them back.

This book has it all. Space battles, estranged twins coming together, psychic powers, love/hate relationships, government conspiracies, human rights activism... But, honestly, where the plot was full of action-packed things happening, I found it slightly lacking in substance.

Where characters were concerned, I just didn't connect. Lissa was our main character, the one we were supposed to relate to as her world is turned upside-down and she's thrust into this spectacular adventure. But with her, we're never given a base of normalcy to attach to. I mean, I get what Howson was trying for: an ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances. But from the start she's already experiencing abnormal events, already ostracized from her peers, already facing a life-changing decision. I never got a feeling for how she was before everything happened in order for her personal-growth journey to mean anything.

Lin was by-far the more interesting of the two. A girl with strange powers growing up in near-isolation, being told she's worth nothing, with strange visions of another life being her only source of hope. And then, getting to experience her escape, her triumph, her confusion at the outside world, at these 'morals' being instilled in her—now that would be fascinating to read. Observing her was okay, but without seeing the inner workings of her mind there were too many times where she felt underdeveloped. I mean, for having broken free, run away, and having a survive-at-all-costs mentality, I would expect a far less pacifistic personality, even if it was only with her sister.

And really, the two sisters' bond was the best part of the two characters. Watching the two of them interact, having absolutely nothing in common yet having to cooperate and compromise to reach a goal, was easily my favorite part. I especially enjoyed the soul-searching moments when Lissa was faced with the thought that perhaps her sister wasn't human, like when she had to explain fundamental moral concepts such as why killing/harming another person was wrong. Seeing her struggle to understand, and ultimately to love someone so intrinsically different from herself was by far the strongest aspect of the book. Do I think it might have been stronger from Lin's perspective? Perhaps...

Additionally, I thought the book had some other interesting insights in regards to morality, human rights, sociology and even a little psychology. I will say I was very skeptical of Lissa's treatment by her friends/peers. In my experience, confirmed medical conditions (especially those that result in bruises and blackouts) aren't seen as jeering material unless you're much younger, and even then it's not like the whole class would be that heartless. But besides that, I enjoyed the debates regarding what made a human, if killing was ever justified, and detachment from feelings.

Unfortunately, that all wasn't enough to make me "feel" this book. As I said, there's a lot here to keep your attention. A lot of things happen bang-bang-bang, one right after the other. But the disconnect from the characters, especially the main character, just left me feeling kinda "meh" after I was done. Perhaps it was the choice of writing in 3rd-Person Limited rather than 1st? I mean, I was interested to know more about the world/universe they inhabited, and I had fun while I was there. I didn't dislike the book, or Lissa, I just didn't really care at the end.

As far as the ending was concerned, I liked it. It was open enough to leave room for sequels, but also complete enough not to leave you feeling gypped or overly anxious for the next book. Honestly, I was a little disappointed when I discovered that there is indeed a Book 2 scheduled for 2014. And not because I have tons of books already on my plate, but because I was genuinely happy with where it ended. Our characters went through their adventure, changed, became stronger people, and, as with most stories, still had their lives ahead of them. Sure, there's more things left to be done, but I don't know what else there is to explore about them. I'll probably check out Unravel for curiosity's sake, but I think other readers could easily leave this as a stand-alone novel without too much heartache.

Overall, Linked was an interesting story, though I found the characters a bit lackluster. I'd recommend it for those who enjoy YA science fiction with some romance and morality issues thrown in. It does contain some violence and a low-scale PG romance, and a few descriptions of human testing may disturb the more squeamish, but everything is very brief. If you're looking for a futuristic society where it seems the wrong people were put in charge, and it's fate rests on the shoulders of two young girls, then you should give Linked a try.

Approximate Reading Time: 6.5 hours

Disclaimer: I read an e-copy of this book for free via Simon & Schuster Inc./SimonTeen's 31 Days of Reading promotion on their website, I received nothing in exchange for this review.