Series: The Change #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on November 11th, 2014
Genres: dystopia, young adult
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Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, "the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. "Las Anclas" now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.
Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.
Last week, I hosted an author interview and giveaway for this novel, I reflected on my first exposure to the novel:
Last year, I got word of a LGBTQ YA novel releasing with Sherwood Smith as a collaborator. I left an excited message on the LiveJournal page asking to be kept in the loop about the project.
Fast forward to 2014, and low and behold, Stranger is now published and available! I purchased the novel and read it right away. The other part of the writing duo, Rachel Manija Brown, agreed to do an interview to promote and feature the new novel.
I was very stunned how much I have taken up for this cause. First of all, we need the spectrum of sexuality represented in our fiction for all ages. Second, I just love dystopian novels. Third, this book was nothing like I was expecting. When someone asked me about the novel, I reflected on the story as “something I haven’t read before” and “very, very different.” This novel put to rest some of the post-apocalyptic fatigue due to the pop cultural trend, and provided me with a book that threw me into a whole new world.
Character Party! Stranger takes on five different POVs during the entire novel. As an audience, we’re able to see the entire perspective of the dilemma from various angles. I usually dodge multiple POV novels, but for this setting, it really worked. The premise pivots around a stranger coming into the middle of a “safe haven” town in the midst of a cold war show down between normal humans and “changed people” – humans that have become altered from solar radiation. This provides the story with multiple layers and threads of conflict as the tension mounts and builds.
Something that honestly shocked me was the different voices of each chapter. I could randomly read anywhere in the book, and know which character was speaking.
The variety of voices was another nice, surprising factor. There is a homosexual Asian prince, a girl nerd virgin, a POC new militia newbie, a stuck up daughter of the town officials and leadership, and the new stranger himself. Each of these characters brought a certain flavor and viewpoint of the struggle that the town faced. I thought that the voices would all become one, but the more the story progressed, the more each character shined through.
This novel also approaches racism and prejudice in a new form. The non-changed people have a beef with the altered people, which brings to light the issue of “us against them” that is making a horrible appearance in our media, at the current moment.
The characters are the driving point of the novel. The story line and arc are solid and the book is packed with adventure, but I would say for certain that this novel is geared towards people who like their books focused on the people in the story.
The Crock Pot of Humanity. In the story, the cultures of the “old world” blend into one, large human community. Stranger hosts different pieces of American, Spanish, Black and Asian culture, which helps set the concrete idea that the world is populated with the human remainders of Earth, struggles to get by and depend on each other for survival. It was a new concept to adapt, since it would make sense the old ideas and cultural bounds would melt away if a majority of the people on Earth were to become wiped off the face of the planet.
New and Improved Romance Formula. There is quite a bit of romance in the novel, since one of the toting points is the Yes Gay element. Expect romance. But don’t expect the typical romance. There is a love triangle, but instead of petty jealousy and horrible, nasty warfare, two sides of the triangle agree to let the person of interest pick, and at one point, both of the interested parties take the love target out on a date at the same time. Colored me shocked. Also, the romance is so damn adorable in this book.
Weird Science. Something that caught my eye right away was the oddball science of the novel. Solar radiation scrambles everyone and everything on Earth, and life as we know it comes closer to a Star Trek comic. Killer trees that change people, teleporting squirrels, and people that come in a wide variety of superpowers. I was almost tempted to categorize this as a sci-fi novel. Looking for large-ass snakes? Go get this.
Out Pacing. As mentioned previously, this novel is character-driven. There is plenty of action, and a touch of mystery, but the book does slow down from time to time to capture the feelings and the thoughts of the characters. The pace isn’t fast, but it is well worth it for the interaction web between the entire community.
Stranger was a complete shock to me – in the best of ways. Filled with character support, this book takes on a fresh outlook on dystopian novels while mirroring the far-fetched science of a campy sci-fi. This book is for anyone looking to shake up their book routine and for readers ready to tackle something a little different a new. Those who are completing a GLBT goal will also want to give this one a chance.