Author: Michelle Gagnon
Age Range: 14 and up
When I learned from Colleen Mondor that Soho Press was debuting Soho Teen, a mystery/thriller imprint for young adults, I was intrigued. I am generally on the lookout for teen mysteries. So I went onto NetGalley, and found Strangelets available for review. Once I started to glance through it, I couldn't put it down, actually pre-empting the book that I was already reading.
I would call Strangelets science fiction with a mystery slant, rather than pure mystery/thriller. Strangelets begins with three geographically separated teens, each facing imminent death. A hole opens up, sucking each teen into a vortex. They wake up locked in an otherwise abandoned hospital wing, together with three other teenagers with similar near-death stories. When they eventually make their way outside, they find themselves in a crumbling, overgrown complex of buildings. The truth about where they are, and why, is revealed gradually over the course of the book. The puzzle of trying to figure things out kept me reading long into the night.
Strangelets is plot-driven and suspenseful, with a delightfully creepy atmosphere. Like this:
"They emerged from it into an enormous room, the size of an airplane hangar. It was filled with computer equipment, huge towers, and complicated looking panels. Silent and dark as a tomb, cast in an eerie red glow by emergency lights place at staggered intervals. It looked like a scene straight out of an old James Bond film; Declan half-expected to find a villain in a swiveling chair stroking a cat."
The limited third person viewpoint shifts frequently between the three primary protagonists, but I never found this disruptive. Terminally ill Californian Sophie, Irish bad boy Declan, and defecting Israeli soldier Anat have quite distinct voices. Sophie evokes sympathy (and is clearly intelligent), while Declan adds charm, street smarts, and humor (as above). Anat is not particularly likeable, but has other strengths. Here's Anat:
"Not that any of these kids were her fellow countrymen. Far from it, she thought with a snort. They were all soft, whining about missing a single meal. If anything happened, she was clearly the best equipped to handle it."
Here's Sophie (with elipses to avoid spoilers):
"Of course, it was pretty absurd for a bunch of teenagers to get sucked across the planet into the infirmary beneath a research facility, too. And for ... Absurd was the order of the day."
The science in the science fiction of Strangelets is a bit vague, but still thought-provoking. I don't want to say more, because a big part of the fun of reading the book lies in figuring out what's going on. I found the ending a little more tidy than I might have personally preferred, but I think that most teen readers will like it.
I enjoyed Strangelets, and I think that teens (boys and girls) will too. I look forward to seeing what else Soho Teen comes up with. Recommended.
Publisher: Soho Teen (@soho_teen)
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Source of Book: Advance review copy from NetGalley
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