Book Review: MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza (2013)

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Sixteen year-old Mila Daily and her mother have recently moved to a small Minnesota town following the death of her father. After surviving an accident that should have proved fatal, Mila is forced to confront a difficult truth. She isn’t a normal girl. She isn’t, in fact, even human.

This was the December pick for my monthly book club and overall, I enjoyed it. It’s well paced with an engaging heroine who behaves with all the impulsiveness of any teenage girl. I loved the descriptions of Mila’s “bonus features” which point out both the positives and the negatives of having something like Terminator-vision. The action sequences were well-written and easily to follow, which is a lot harder than it sounds. The most interesting scenes take place when Mila is talking with Three, her counterpart.

I finished this book in about a day, and it kept my attention the entire time. I wish I could rate it higher, but at the same time there were a few glaring problems that kept me from truly submerging myself in this fictional world. MILA 2.0 sometimes feels like an alphabet soup of common YA tropes. I picked up strong hints of Divergence with Mila’s constant internal (whining) monologue. The author, Debra Driza, has a habit of ending every chapter on a cliff-hanger, which is one of the reasons I eventually stopped reading The Maze Runner books. I also found some of the characters to be a little implausible. Hunter, as the generically perfect romantic interest, is introduced and then almost immediately left behind. The military general was unnecessarily evil. I get that the military does shady things for shady reasons but at least there are reasons. Whereas this guy seemed to be a dick just for the sake of being a dick. The bond between Mila and her mother is awkward. One minute, it’s a normal mother-daughter relationship with typical angsty rebellion. Then it’s wild anger and betrayal, followed way too quickly by forgiveness and undying loyalty. Also the character of Lucas was obviously a plot device; from the moment he showed up it was painfully obvious exactly what role he was there to fulfill.

I wish that the science part of the science fiction had been given a larger voice. We discover pretty early on that Mila isn’t human. Let’s talk about that! This novel had the wonderful opportunity to explore the essence of humanity and to question the existence of a soul. Instead, too much of the book is given over to lengthy chase scenes and internal monologuing.

With all that, I still did enjoy the book. It was a fun and uncomplicated read. I will probably pick up the other books in the series at some point.

My rating: 3/5

You can find this book here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2012)

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Julia and her family wake up on a seemingly normal Saturday afternoon to find out that the world they took for granted has changed. The rotation of the Earth has begun to slow, causing night and day to extend by a few minutes each day. As the process stretches out, gravity is affected, birds begin dying off, and people are split between those who stick with the twenty-four hour clock and those who still follow the rhythms of the Sun.

“There was no footage to show on television, no burning buildings or broken bridges, no twisted metal or scorched earth, no houses sliding off slabs. No one was wounded. No one was dead. It was, at the beginning, a quite invisible catastrophe”

Take a moment and think about how dependent we are on the rotation of the Earth. For billions of years the sun has risen and set on a twenty-four hour cycle. The movements of the sun tells us when to begin and end our day. It tells us which meals to eat and when. When it is safe to go out on the street versus when should we lock our doors. Now what would happen if all of the habits ingrained in our circadian rhythm were suddenly disrupted? What if school began in the middle of the night? Or if you were expected to go to sleep in the bright afternoon light? The Age of Miracles explores the idea of how society would adjust to cope with the loss of the intrinsic dichotomy of night and day.

“We were, on that day, no different from the ancients, terrified of our own big sky.”

This book is difficult to categorize. It’s a little bit YA, a little bit science fiction. It’s a coming of age story, a natural disaster story, and a story about time and our natural relationship with night and day. It’s also a beautifully written novel about a girl who is trying to come to terms with her life when everything she took for granted in her life is suddenly upended.

My favorite part of this book is that it is written from the perspective of an eleven year old girl. Too much of the natural disaster genre focuses on “scientist who is totally brilliant but overlooked until its too late”. Instead, we watch the Earth stop spinning through the eyes of someone who is more focused on whether or not the cute boy on the bus is going to pay attention to her. Children don’t expect the same things from life that adults do. For Julia, the biggest problem she is currently facing is not that the sun hasn’t risen in twenty hours, it’s that her best friend is no longer speaking to her. The main plot of the story almost plays like a backdrop to the everyday pitfalls and triumphs of an ordinary teenager. In this aspect, The Age of Miracles is utterly unique, which means that it is also utterly unpredictable.

Something else that kept cropping up in this novel was the idea that even when presented with an extinction-level crisis, humanity will somehow always find time to create an “us” versus a “them”. In this case, it’s the people who choose to carry on with a twenty-four hour clock versus the people who decide change their sleeping patterns to fit with the changing sun. It is sadly unsurprising that the two groups cannot seem to peacefully coexist. Even when faced with our own destruction, society will feel the need to know that they went down swinging in the “correct” way.

Overall, this was a quick read that kept me thoroughly engaged from start to finish. Walker’s prose borders on poetry at times, but she manages not to stray into the realm of overly sappy or purple language. I would definitely recommend this book.

My rating: 4/5

You can find this book here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!