published May 2009 by Penguin
272 pages (paperback), YA
Aerin Renning is a scarred fugitive, Dane Madousin a rebellious son of privilege. On the surface, they have nothing in common. But the two most competitive freshmen at Academy 7 share an undiscovered bond. Both harbor a dangerous secret that threatens their own destruction. And while their safety depends upon their staying apart, the two are inexplicably drawn to each other. Even as unknown forces conspire to separate them, their competition turns to friendship, and their friendship to romance. Now not only their lives--but their hearts--are at stake. To survive, the two must unite all their knowledge, skills, and gifts to uncover a secret bigger than either could have imagined. A secret as big as the entire universe...I don't usually include back-of-the-book summaries (because they tend to give away a bit much), but I did this time because it gives away nothing. Nothing at all. Yes, there are two main characters who are drawn to each other, the two most gifted students at Academy 7. Too bad there's no mention of Academy 7 being on the planet of Academia. Yep, it's science fiction. And I'm puzzled as to why this fact was so intentionally hidden.
Perhaps because it's not necessary to be an avid science fiction reader to enjoy this book. It's probably better not to be. There's only so much development of a universe 3000 years in the future that can occur in the space of 200+ pages, but I think it was enough to give me a sense of place without bogging me down with all the minute details.
Aerin has no home planet. She lost her father in a shuttle crash (which she witnessed) some seven years ago and has been enslaved on an X planet since then. When she finally escapes, she is rescued by an Alliance ship, where she takes a series of tests that gain her entry into the most prestigious school in the universe, Academy 7. Dane, on the other hand, is a troublemaker, son of a General and Council member. He's dangerous, suicidal even, but extremely intelligent, even if he tries to mask it with disdain. His father doesn't expect him to be accepted to Academy 7, his alma mater, because the golden child, his older brother, was not. All the more reason for Dane to attend this fancy-pants school. Dane and Aerin drive this story - their secrets, their inner conflicts, and their need to share the most painful parts of their lives.
Some books are like fast friends. After reading merely a page or two, you just know that you won't be able to put it down. This book was that for me, and even though it left me with a lot to think about and question, the experience of reading the book was quite enjoyable. I certainly didn't agree with all that occurred, but I saw how it could happen the way it did. What surprised me the most was that this book left me wanting more. And that's probably the best bookish feeling ever. Aerin and Dane are two characters that I'll probably keep with me - their stories, emotions, and actions felt so genuine, and their attraction to each other was almost a necessity. Today's teens will relate to this intense relationship, for sure.
Other bloggy thoughts:
lucy was robbed - "[...] will appeal to readers of the less swoony paranormals out there and budding (or closet) sci-fi fans."
The Story Siren - "I was absolutely intrigued by the world Osterlund created. I might just have to change my outlook on Sci-fi."
Reading Rocks - "Osterlund manages to make a simple scene of talking or hand-holding into something as intimate and tender as the best of kissing scenes in other books."
Rebecca's Book Blog - "I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy teen fiction. It honestly has something in it for everyone - science fiction, fantasy, adventure, and a story of friendship and romance."