Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Seeking Good Young Adult Fiction?

Can we just all take a deep breath and stop comparing every new young adult novel/series to The Hunger Games? Because if I read that endorsement for a novel again, I probably won't pick it up.

Not that Seeker is a bad novel by any means. There's a lot to like in this first book of a new series by Arwen Elys Dayton. Action-packed almost from the beginning, and set in a sort of alternate universe of our world, we learn about three young padawan...oops, I mean students...who are being trained for their destinies as Seekers. Seekers, as we learn in spurts, are supposed to be the ones who right the wrongs and help those most in need through whatever means necessary. What we gather, as the story gains momentum, is that means being trained to be killers and how to use a powerful artifact known as an athame to travel THERE, a sort of time/space loophole that takes a Seeker wherever he/she is trying to go. These three students, around age fourteen or so, immediately face differing futures as one, John, is dismissed as not worthy, and the two remaining, Quin and Shinbonu, take the Oath of a Seeker given by their fathers/uncles. But far from being the Good Thing Quin and Shinbonu believed it to be, they are forced to commit atrocities designed to gain their families power and keep others from recovering stolen athames. It's enough to drive good kids crazy...and does.

There's so much going on, and way too much to recap here, so I'll give you a basic rundown of the story: Quin, the lone girl of the trio, thinks she is in love with John while Shinbonu, her sort-of cousin, looks on wistfully; the scene shifts from London to Hong Kong and back again; there's lots of violence; the parents are, in general, very very bad and/or fairly useless; there's a totally cool airship called The Traveler that circles London and is John's home; three sort of "overseers" of Seekers called the Dreads also have a part in this story (particularly the Young Dread, also known as Maud, who has a point of view). The novel moves among the points of view of the three would-be Seekers and Maud, pushing the story forward as split second decisions are made and long-term choices have devastating consequences.

So, did I like it? Well, yes. I found the story mostly engaging and highly readable. I was especially sympathetic to Maud, a young girl bound by her calling but struggling against the Middle Dread's obvious hatred of her. Dayton does a good job of world building for the most part, and her characters are often conflicted and unnerved in their actions, but steadfast to their ideals (mostly). My biggest problem is, even after 400 pages, I still didn't feel close to Quin or Shinbonu or John, and I certainly never bought into any love triangle (which was really unnecessary, by the way). There's way too many words spent on the fact that Quin and Shinbonu are cousins (or not) and it bugged me that it was set up that way so that it became an issue, especially because it's obvious that Shinbonu is in love with her. John's behavior, while explained, made me the most irritated: Is he a bad guy with good tendencies or a good guy with bad reasoning? Quite honestly, by the end of the book, I was pretty much over him and his justifications.

So the final question remains...will I read the sequels? Probably. I liked the story well enough and Dayton can certainly write action very well. But comparisons to The Hunger Games, whether in storyline, ability to fascinate, or just because it's a young adult novel, need to stop. Good, yes, but totally different and there's definitely no Katniss Everdeen to be seen anywhere.


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