#bookquotes

Alien Invasion. Travelling space and seeing all those wild forms of galactic races and returning to an unpopulated Earth… this duology had all the earmarks of what I love. But it is for a much younger market. I could see this as a great kids film or television series. Possibly animated?

Book Review – ‘The First 7’ (#2 The Last 8) by Laura Pohl

A group of kids, the last survivors of the human race…

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 367

Clover Martinez and The Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind…even if they can’t help but be a little homesick.

So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former planet, they hope against hope that it means other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations have popped up everywhere and there’s some sort of barrier keeping them from leaving.

Seeking the origin of the formations and the reason for the barrier, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. But the survivors aren’t who they seem…

I enjoyed this more than the debut. I think with the ridiculous aliens out of the picture and the story starting out in space, it constructed a world deep in sci-fi, rather than a dystopian earth facing an alien threat, that slight shift in the tone of the narrative allowed me to shed preconceived notions and really get into the story.

The characters did feel a little more grown up – we still get moments of teenage melodrama, but it seems the war and travel in the stars have seasoned our group and I was less inclined to sigh or eye-roll. Still there is a tone with the presentation (description) of the aliens that we encounter in ‘The First 7’ that feels immature. I guess it will capture the minds of a younger audience (of whom it is intended.)

The First 7’ has a much stronger plot that its predecessor but there was the inclination to meander a little. The story is broken into three sections which didn’t necessarily transition as easily as they could have.

We see some great character arcs, and an aspect of humanity shone through brightest for me. Pohl even managed to surprise me with a few plot twists that I didn’t see coming. I’d love to see her write for a more mature audience, what I gather from her writing chops, it has limitless possibilities.

Again the greatest drawbacks were meandering plot and tone of the novel.

We see many of the hanging plot threads from the debut tied up in a rather unusual fashion. And Pohl is not afraid to serve out real-life consequences to her characters after facing apocalypse-level circumstances that you don’t see in a lot of YA. So I am unsure if teens reacting to mental coping mechanisms, combined with hormonal behaviour left the plot feeling that bit erratic: it is either a pretty accurate depiction, or a tone not befitting young adults placed in that situation… it’s hard to tell with them being changed with alien DNA – but it’s the same elements that had me humming and harring from ‘The Last 8’ as well.

I understand the title of ‘The First 7’ and its need to match the hook from the debut, but after completing the novel, I don’t see how it really fits. They mention it in the novel, but the justification felt tenuous at best.

The ending was sufficiently cinematic and while I enjoyed my time reading this duology, it’s probably one I’ll forget fairly quickly. I’d only recommend this for the younger end of the YA market. Adults and older young adults may find this a little juvenile.

Overall feeling: Okay, pretty good.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Last 8’ (#1 The Last 8) by Laura Pohl

Alien Invasion meets The Breakfast Club.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 357

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

The cover art for this title is what really grabbed my attention, then the blurb – an alien invasion! It’s not a secret I love sci-fi. ‘The Last 8’ is a solid YA read full of sass and intrigue.

I will say this book read young, the protagonist (Clover) and her merry band of fellow survivors, though many with high intelligence, acted like tweens. These characters are meant to be on the verge of adulthood, but if I didn’t know their age, by the way they acted, I would have guessed 12-13 years of age. This was the biggest drawback for me. I was constantly on the verge of eye-rolling or sighing. The kind of patience I had for my younger sibling when he was doing something stupid, but I had to let him be and learn to navigate the world in his own way.

Leading on from this, with the characters floundering a lot, being reactionary, the plot felt like it too meandered a bit. Like the teenagers attitude bled through. I love the concept and reveals in ‘The Last 8,’ but I just wish the tone would have been a touch more mature. (Granted, I’m am waaay too old to be the demographic for this novel.)

The premise of the aliens was an interesting one, though it read like something you would see in an animated Disney film, it was, almost… comedic. You’ll understand if you have read the book. You don’t really get a sense of the terror from the aliens, just the fear and isolation inflicted from the actual invasion.

I do love the way Laura Pohl can craft an atmosphere. Her characters and character development are pretty great too – but I think maybe the tone of the novel stopped this aspect of her writing from being truly outstanding.

We get a diverse cast, of both nationality and sexual orientation, and while I praise the representation, it was still used as a plot device, a reveal, rather than simply a part of the character. There are subtle differences in approaching this sensitive topic if you compare this to how sexual orientation is dealt with from #ownvoices authors. I can’t speak for Clover and her Spanish heritage because I have no personal experience in that sense, but the fact you could read her thoughts in Spanish was fantastic.

There was a bit of language that I’m on the fence about. I don’t mind swearing when it services the plot or character, I felt it did neither here, merely used to attempt to give ‘The Last 8’ some street cred.

There is an element of mental illness, grief, PTSD, anxiety and depression in the story as well, which given the tone of ‘The Last 8,’ I was surprised at how this was handled… with the swearing, sensitive topics, the tone really clashes with the subject matter.

I feel like there were parts missing from the story – which are done on purpose to keep the pace going, but I feel like there were a few developmental moments skipped in building character motivation, despair, and tension. This is part and part of the tone I mentioned earlier.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Last 8’ and am keen to see where the story goes in the final instalment to this duology ‘The First 7.’ We might see the tone change as the characters grow and overcome challenges, and because it sets up such a wonderful opportunity for world building, with what I’ve liked of Laura Pohl’s writing so far, she could really shine and bring home this series with a bang.

Overall feeling: fun, but a little let down.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.