I didn’t know what to expect going into this book. On one hand, Nicole Kornher-Stace wrote one of my favourite novels in recent years (see Archivist Wasp), on the other hand it was aimed at middle school readers and didn’t know if it’d be too simple for me. Either way, I figured it would be a quick read and decided to give it a go (I was contacted by the publisher to read it, just so you know).
Anyway, I didn’t expect it to be so freaking delightful. It’s just such a lovely story, with such well rounded and very likeable characters, which made it easy to read and easy to enjoy.
So what’s it about. Jillian is a young girl who has anxiety. She’s trying to keep it all together for a take your kid to work day, because her parents have the coolest job: they go to other planets to collect resources. This is an easier process than a rocket, as they can just open portals to the relevant planet. Jillian most definitely wants to go on a trip with them, at some point in the future, and is on her best behaviour. What then transpires of course, is that the her parents surprise her to go on a five day trip to a ‘safe’ planet. But all doesn’t go as planned…
What I found really great about Jillian as a character, is that her anxiety is not her sole defining feature, but rather like any character, something she has to manage to save the day. It’s described really well, and her internal monologue demonstrates how frustrated she is by her brain. But it’s not everything, it’s not her sole defining characteristic. She loves camping, she’s funny, she’s curious. All of these strengths aid her when things go wrong on arrival.
The other main character, who in the long tradition of me loving non-living characters, is SABRINA. Who is very flexible, autonomous nanobot cloud. But of course it has a personality, and what a personality. Likes to tell awful jokes, card tricks, being flashy and to show off. Being able to turn into virtually anything, SABRINA is what helps Jillian survive the events on the planet. I’m not doing SABRINA justice, but it was such a fantastic character, I really, really loved it. I think some of the delight of the book is learning the extent of SABRINA’s playful personality.
The world Jillian arrives on and all the descriptions of what’s happening are so clear, that you get a real sense of the planet and what’s transpiring. There were also some ADORABLE doodles in my e-book which I really liked, so I hope they are in every book. I also really enjoyed the twist at the end, though being an adult reader, I suspected it might happen.
Finally, even though this book is aimed at middle school kids, I feel like the author takes her audience seriously. I didn’t feel like too much was explained or dumbed down, it was just a well crafted narrative that happened to be about a kid. I would have loved this book at that age, and very much enjoyed it now.
Anyway, if you have a middle school kid, or if you just want to have a delightful read about a girl and a semi-autonomous nanobot system, then I recommend you pick this up.