Standard teen with special powers attends a school for the gifted, accompanied by his Australian guardian angel. Some evil ancient force composed of agencies, teenagers and monsters pursues him. It’s worth a read, and may surprise you. I would put it on my bookshelf.
Full Length Review:
Will West’s family moves around every few years for no explanation. He has no close friends, so he spends his time running cross-country. When men called the Black Hats begin to pursue him, Will follows his dad’s 98 rules to survive. Once he learns that he has been accepted to an academy for the gifted, Will goes home only to find out his mom has become a zombie! Well, no. The Black Hats planted a mind control bug in her neck. After his father warns him to run, Will enrolls in the special school and flies off to safety.
The bulk of this book is Will gaining friends and unraveling the mystery behind who is after him. The plot fell apart for me though, somewhere around the part where Will abandons his family and uses Nando, a random taxi driver he just met to do reconnaissance on the bad guys. There is way too much going on, that the story was lost to all the cool features the author was trying to shove in.
Will manages to meet a handful of wonderful characters that all get broad descriptions, but none particularly stand out, except Dave. However, most, including Will, don’t feel like fully realized ideas. Among Will’s friends, there is the brainy one, the slang-slinging gymnast, a piano player with fierce eyes, and a blonde love interest. While these may be new twists on past stereotypes, none defy expectations. They did make my laugh on occasion, though. The villain(s) had some interesting backstory, and some historical significance, but never displayed any awesome factors.
The book starts of in Ojai, California and moves Will off to The Center for Integrated Learning, a high school in Wisconsin. The Center is a high school for gifted students and recruits all students by merit. It houses a little over 1,000 students by Will’s calculations, yet boasts an entire shopping mall. It sounds too good to be true, or believable at all in our reality. I do enjoy the descriptions of snow though and I would make a pilgrimage to Popski’s any day of the week.
As for description, the book starts of with whole chapters dedicated to describing either people or areas. Some of the descriptions can even entice envy, such as the description for a hot rod and Will’s first Wisconsin breakfast. Yet, some of the time spent on describing minor things in great detail, could have gone to better use. Still, the writing never loses track and the words flow.
This book is written in 3rd person limited, past tense for the most part. However, at some points in time, the writing head hops mid-paragraph and the POV changes. The author enjoys lengthy descriptions, and characters so packed with personality they are borderline racist. Maybe it was the Mexican cab driver who can never form a grammatically correct sentence, or the Australian soldier who exclusively speaks in an Australian dialect like he never left. The pacing was slow at times, but picked up near the last 1/3 of the book, which was around 350 pages into this 560-page monster.
This book already has a sequel due out in a few months. I think the author can carry the story through to a trilogy. With most of the description out of the way, I feel like the plot can get to maximum potential if the Mark Frost looks over mistakes from the first. This was also Frost’s first YA book, which was able to capture the teenage voice surprisingly well for a man bordering on 60. His background in scriptwriting has given him to write the screenplay for the upcoming movie, which will definitely give this book some hype.
Writing Style 3/5