Author: Suzanne Weyn
Age Range: 12 and up
Bionic is a fast-paced YA title with an intriguing premise. Mira is a high school junior who has a promising future ahead. She's a top lacrosse player, sings in a band, and is thinking about college. When a horrific car accident leaves Mira severely injured, her plans seem to be derailed. Then the opportunity to become a research subject for a government project involving bionic limbs run via a chip in the brain changes everything for Mira again. But will she change too much to feel human anymore?
I found that Weyn's spare text kept this book bearable, even when I was reading about Mira's first person suffering. Mira is in and out of consciousness at first, and this gives the reader a break, too. Mira's entire accident and initial hospital stay takes place over only two chapters - the surgery and physical therapy are covered, but not in much detail, and with the tedious bits skipped over. Like this:
"I have a new respect for toddlers. This is work! Frustrating, exhausting work. It's demoralizing and humiliating not to be able to do the most basic of activities. I can't stand, walk, or even control my new arm. By the end of the day, I'm once more in tears." (end of Chapter 2)
"I thought the day would never come, but today Carol pushes me to the front door in my wheelchair. Mom is right behind me, loaded down with all my suitcases.
When Carol stops inside the front door, I lean heavily on my crutch and pull myself to standing. The weeks of exercises I've done with Raelene have built up my back and abdominal muscles to the point where I can hold steady and not tumble forward." (start of Chapter 3)
The rest of the book is about Mira's recovery and increasing level of bionic capabilities. There's a bit about her frustration with the recovery and her changed situation (no more lacrosse team, etc.). There's some understandable depression on Mira's part, but also introspection. Like this:
"Sitting by the living room window, I notice the patterns in everyone's days. The same people come and go at the same times. Old Jim next door walks his dog, Rusty, every morning at eight, then again at five. A day-camp bus drops the same two small kids off at four every afternoon. The mail carrier drops the mail in our box at two every day. In just two days I've got their routines nailed. Even the birds and squirrels show up at more of less the same time. I've never realized before how much of life is lived from habit." (Chapter 6)
Shown slowly over the course of the book, we see how the chip in her brain affects Mira's emotions and self-perception. And how her changes affect the people around her (best friend, boyfriend, bandmates, family). I liked the fact that Mira had a single mother, dedicated but struggling, and a younger brother with autism. As a mother, I can't even imagine how Mira's mother managed, but as a reader with an eye out for diverse family situations, I appreciated this one. I particularly liked the fact that Mira's brother, though clearly different, was able to do things to help her as the book progressed.
Bionic is a quick read with a premise and writing style that will keep readers turning the pages. It would make a good choice for reluctant teen readers, particularly those with a yen for speculative fiction. Recommended for libraries serving high schoolers. [There's nothing that I think would make it objectionable for middle schoolers, but it feels more like a high school book to me.] The theme of reinvention (and then further reinvention) should resonate with teens.
Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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