Author: Malinda Lo
First Sentence: “The triangle spaceship hovered motionless in the sky above Reese Holloway’s house, as inscrutable as a black hole.”
Rating: 6 out of 5 freaky alien powers
I mentioned in my review of Adaptation that my life prevented me from reading this immediately upon its release because I kept moving and the libraries where I was living kept not having it which is basically a crime against humanity but has been rectified since I ordered it at each library but then moved again before it came in until FINALLY I moved to a place where I didn’t move away and got it from the library and all was right with the universe.
And if you are wondering why I didn’t just buy it that is because I was unemployed and broke.
Literally everything about this book is awesome.
LITERALLY. EVERYTHING. ABOUT. THIS. BOOK. IS. AWESOME.
Every five minutes of reading this book I was just like:
There is really too much to summarize so here are the things I liked best.
Commentary on the media and fame
Reese and David become famous in an instant. People take long lens photos of them and post them online and there are comments. And if you know anything about the interweb you know DON’T READ THE COMMENTS!! But Reese does anyway and yikes. There are photos of her and David holding hands because they start dating. But then there are photos of Reese and Amber almost kissing because Amber is all “I love you and I’m not giving up” and Reese is all “I’m still totally attracted to you but you lied to me so I feel betrayed and also you’re an alien and also I’m dating someone else so Ahhhh!!” This photo outs Reese to the world and her friends are a little (or a lot) hurt that they found out via the internet and not from Reese and FEELINGS. More on that later.
The revelation that Reese is bisexual leads to ugly stories and uglier comments about her and her relationship with an alien. Horrific things are said. A man tries to shoot her. Also David is called every ethnic insult you’ve ever heard of because he is Asian. And because they can sense the feelings of everyone around them Reese and David can literally feel the hatred and fear of the crowds that gather outside their houses.
The commentary on our media is profound. We live in a time when Justin Bieber’s mug shots are mocked on tv and every social media outlet. When tabloids run photos of women with cellulite circled in red. I cringe to see the feelings of entitlement of the population, the feeling that they have the right to pry into every detail of every famous person’s life. Would any of us like to have our Saturday-morning-running-errands outfit and hair displayed for the world? Would we like to have every stupid comment and mistake broadcast?
The attention Reese and David get also is an honest look at bigotry and hatred in this country. Reese and David’s friends accept them as they are, and Reese’s mom is totally cool with Reese loving whomever she loves. Like Reese I live most of my life surrounded by open-minded people who couldn’t care less who I date. For those of us in this happy situation, I think it can be easy to forget that there are still people in the world, in the country, who actually want homosexuals dead; who truly believe we are going to hell. We can’t forget. We can’t let ourselves forget. This book has a fantastic balance of the brutal truth and the hopeful progress we’ve made.
The Imrians eventually reveal that our two species look virtually identical because they’ve been meddling in our evolution since millions of years ago, so you can imagine how the creationists of the book react to that. As a resolute atheist this was one of my favorite parts. The Imrians saw potential for life on Earth to evolve into beings like them and so gave our evolutionary ancestors a nudge, and then another one. But we didn’t develop their empathic abilities, which they believe is what makes us a warring species—because we can’t know what others are thinking and feeling and so we all misunderstand each other and are jealous and so fight all the time. The adaptation procedure is supposed to correct that. To fix us. To make us the right way.
Which has only EVERYTHING TO DO WITH EVERYTHING!!!
First the whole concept of meddling in sciencey things. Genetically changing crops. Conducting science experiments just to see what will happen and not forseeing 8 million ramifications down the road. I’m a big fan of science, and a big believer in science. I support undirected research because it has produced some awesome stuff. But we have to be careful because we never know what might happen.
In the book people react very badly to the idea that humans need to be “fixed” by the Imria. Even if they are to partially to blame for humans becoming how/who we are, the idea that human nature is a condition that can be cured is discomforting. It aligns with my discomfort with the whole “Born This Way” argument about homosexuality. The argument that I was born this way and so can’t help it equates my sexual orientation with a condition that could be cured if we could only figure out how. To me, nature vs nurture is completely beside the point. It doesn’t matter if I choose to kiss girls or if I am helpless to those desires. You don’t get to treat me differently because of who I kiss. Period.
Where was I? Oh right, MY FAVORITE PARTS OF THE BOOK!!!
So Julian and Reese have this big fight because Reese starts dating David and doesn’t tell anyone that she was whatevering with Amber and he sees this as her not wanting to come out of the closet and takes it personally and is hurt by it, where Reese is just like This is none of anyone’s damn business and I don’t want to deal with all the media bullshit. Which is a totally valid argument since once she gets outed people start trying to kill her and shit.
I love this because I can totally identify with both sides. On the one hand, Reese shouldn’t get pressured to put a label on herself or tell anyone anything she doesn’t want to. And she should also get to choose whether or not to put herself in a situation to deal with all the media shit. This is why I’m against outings of celebrities. It’s not our fucking business to out people. They get to do it or not in their own time just like the rest of us. Hopefully.
But on the other side, Julian is hurt because he feels she didn’t trust him. He is her best friend and he feels like by her not coming out that she’s not on his side of the homo argument. Like she’s saying, its cool if you’re gay, but I’m not cool being gay. And he is hurt by that. Which is understandable. And her other friends are hurt by it too. They are all, “did you think we wouldn’t support you?” and again, understandable because we want our friends to know that we love and support them and when we perceive them as not feeling loved and supported then we feel guilty like we should have done more to make sure they knew that which often comes out as hurt and anger because FEELINGS.
Coming out is complicated even when it doesn’t involve an alien, a spaceship and a crowd of reporters. I love that Lo lets this be complicated in this way. Its not complicated because her family and friends will hate her—they won’t. But that doesn’t mean its not complicated.
So Reese and David agree to learn how to control these new alien powers that they have from an Imrian teacher named Eres Tilhar who IS NEITHER MALE NOR FEMALE!!!
This confuses them and Reese has this amazing talk with Amber about it where Amber talks about how gender identity and biological sex are different and on Imria (and on Earth, but Earthlings are a little behind on this) there are lots of different ways to express gender identity and many different versions of what we would consider gender identity except more ambiguous AND ITS AWESOME!!!! Its such a beautiful explanation of an issue that many people apparently have a hard time wrapping their brain around, and its something I have literally never seen explained so well in any book ever including ones that have trans* characters.
Then Amber proposes that since Reese likes Amber and Amber likes Reese, and Reese likes David and David likes Reese that Reese date both David and Amber at the same time. She says these relationships are common on Imria, that she has two dads and a mom. That humans only have a problem with plural relationships because they get jealous because they can’t feel each other’s real emotions. But that since David and Reese and Amber can — it shouldn’t be a problem. She talks about how love is not a finite thing. It’s not like you have a gallon to give and once you do its gone. That you can have a gallon for one person and another gallon for another.
Again a beautiful explanation and also a polyamorous relationship in a YA novel WHAT THAT IS AMAZING!!!!
So like I said, everything about this book is awesome. I love Reese’s snarky and wise voice. I love Julian… I want to write more about him but this is already super long, so I’ll just say that I want to hang out with him and be BFFs. I love Reese’s parents and also David’s parents and how Amber is completely awesome and the idea that aliens are partially responsible for us being us and the discussion of gender identity and sexuality and poly amory in a totally organic way. I love the diverse world Reese lives in (there is more in Inheritance about David being Asian and Reese going to a party and being like ‘wow I am the only white girl here’ and it’s awesome but again I’ve already rambled forever.) I love the combination of suspense who do we trust and freaky alien science and teenage angst.
I also love the millions of things I don’t have room to talk about, like Reese and David and Amber escaping from being held hostage and drugged by generally being awesome and how when the soldier who helps them is killed Reese’s parents adopt her son who is in a foster home and the look at what government will do when it’s scared and and and and…
And like Adaptation there is a marvelous balance of SCIENCE FICTION and FEELINGS to please everyone.
Verdict: Start reading this yesterday.