I have so many thoughts and feelings for this story… none of which are very positive.
Very short recap: Cassie Gupta has only ever wanted to go into space and at the age of 18 she might have her chance. She is chosen to try out for an elite team to go on a highly classified secret mission. Can she make the cut?
From the blurb, this sounded like a really captivating and engaging read. I’m here to tell you that it wasn’t. This felt like it got worse as it got closer to the end. It almost felt like a distant cousin twice removed of Katie Kennedy’s What Goes Up. Please do not go into this story truly believing this is an original and unique because Kenney did it first and her book was published in July 2017. I enjoyed everything about this story so much more than DMT.
My thoughts and feelings are going 90+mph so I’ll try to articulate everything properly. Let me start with the characters. I never, ever, ever, ever connected with Cassie. I could not stand her. She came across as the most childish, immature, petulant, selfish teen that was supposed to be “so mature for her age”. Horse manure. She threw temper tantrums when things didn’t go her way. If someone was better than her she threw a hissy fit. If she wasn’t the best of the best she had a tantrum. I never saw that as her being a driven character, I saw that as a spoiled child who was used to getting her way and finally someone told her NO. It. Was. Maddening. I wanted to slap her so many times. She was never supportive of others yet wanted everyone to congratulate her when she did something right. She was constantly bragging that she was better than others – she was genetically enhanced, mind you. (I’ll go more into that in a moment.) Yes, one of her known flaws was to not be a friendly person but c’mon. It felt too extreme in this story. Also, every task and challenge Cassie was asked to face and complete felt very convenient. She conveniently knew about MREs and camping so she aced that. She conveniently knew how to scuba dive so she was comfortable underwater. She conveniently excelled at math and science so the astrophysics that was talked about was easy for her to understand. Give me a break. As for the rest of the characters, there are too many for me to remember. I didn’t feel any of them had actual individual voices so they all blurred together for me. I didn’t care for the Cassie/Luka story line. Plus, Cassie identified as asexual but it had no bearing on this story. The author would have done better with just writing Cassie as a teen character that didn’t have time for romance and left it at that. I don’t feel it made her anymore diverse than being an Indian-American teenager.
The plot was mediocre at best. As I mentioned above, this felt like a recycled storyline. Once I started I knew what was going to happen. There were no surprises or red herrings, only frustration because I wasn’t excited about it anymore. I have a newfound love for sci-fi stories so I had hoped this would push that love further but it made me cringe and give my eyes a workout from rolling them so hard. I did not care for the ending at all. It solidified the fact I won’t continue this series.
The pacing was pitiful. There are massive chunks of this story where nothing happened. I appreciate what Kaczynski was trying to do but I don’t think the delivery was right. She wanted the reader to feel like they were going through the space training program audition with Cassie but was it really necessary to go into such minute detail? Meaning, when Cassie was supposed to complete some puzzles underwater before the air in her tank ran out, we (as in “the reader”) were along for every single breath. It felt unnecessary. Or whenever Cassie was frustrated in having to wait for a shower (petulant child again), we were given her full inner-monologue on how it made her feel and that was a very long monologue, sometimes a full page of just her inner thoughts. She weighed the pros and cons about being in the program versus being at home with her family. That would then lead to her wondering if her parents even miss her. Seriously?! Why? All of the whys. It felt like a giant tangent that continued throughout the entire story. I guess I’m trying to say that there was too much detail given and not enough progressing in the story. It felt like it went stagnant several times. Cassie’s inner thoughts and monologues were always so back and forth. First she would be proud of herself, then she would doubt herself, then she would be fine again, and then she would be mad that she could have done better, but then she would be happy again. This back and forth made up a good majority of the story. You’ve been warned.
There was a part of the story that bothered me because it was mentioned but then never expanded upon. Apparently this story is set in the not so distant future but an exact date is never given. I had an idea only because the year 2024 was mentioned and Cassie made the comment, “That was the year before I was born”. Do the math and you’ll figure things out pretty quick. There are still no flying cars or anything close to that, but it appears there have been enough medical advancements to let parents genetically enhance their unborn children. YEP, you read that correctly. Cassie was genetically enhanced but only so she would be healthy and faster than other kids at sports. The doctors took out any possible health conditions that would hold her back. She had super hearing and sight on top of it all. I failed to see why this subject was mentioned and Cassie made a big deal of it because it was never brought up again. There were kids in the same audition as her that were not enhanced and they were kicking her butt. If it truly didn’t give her an advantage, why mention it?
Needless to say I did not enjoy this story. I would not recommend it unless to a younger reader. This just did not read like a YA story, more like higher MG. I was not impressed and will not continue the series.