Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dangerous by Shannon Hale - My review with and without spoilers

by Shannon Hale
Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected publication: March 4th 2014 by Bloomsbury

Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There's no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.
From NY Times bestselling author Shannon Hale comes a novel that asks, How far would you go to save the ones you love? And how far would you go to save everyone else?

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My thoughts. Hang on tight!
The black type is NOT spoilery at all. The purple stuff is spoilery - so don't go there until you read it. Ready? Here we go...

Oh… what a bleepity-bleep work of astronomical ART!

Part of me love-LOVEs this story, so many, many things about this story.

The other part about me feels like knocking on wood or not saying something too loudly so that it won’t come true. Because this book is horrifyingly real. It doesn’t just feel possible, it feels like it happened in the news and I just didn’t know what to watch for. Like I saw it, but I didn’t really see it. And frankly… that gives me a healthy dose of the eebie jeebies.

Yeah, so if yer lookin’ for “cute” and “fluffy” and “tender”, keep walking.

I suppose the cover hints about that. I mean, Dangerous?! Good title really. Little too innocent.

What I loved for starters:

I love feeling like I have the brains of a super-smart brainiac. The science is sooooo insanely cool. It’s not techno-over-the-top-of-my-head… rather it threw me INTO Maisie’s head so that it all made perfect sense, even when she went into hyper-smart modes. The way Hale describes how she is able to look at technological stuff and “speak its language” just took the BIG-SCARY right out of it. I didn’t need to be an engineer to feel like one, which… GENIUS!!! Usually when I read something mega-intelligent, I feel Unintelligent, you know? Like “skim that paragraph ‘cause I’m sooo lost!” The only lost moment is the… uh… very alien preview, which felt more real for being so incomprehensible.

I did not think that I’d like the idea of Maisie having NO ARM. The idea is announced as a blow. So, naturally, I immediately struggled with the concept. It’s big – it’s the reality of working with one arm in a world that demands at least two (more like four). It’s the feeling of being different and the threat of who cares about it, why and how much. It’s revisiting that perception a second time, wondering if original conclusions were wrong. Like… does my mom really care that I don’t have my arm? Did she not want another kid because she didn’t want to bring another mistake into the world? These questions shouldn’t even be brought up, but they hang there, suspended in consciousness by people who know how to use words like weapons. Yuck. It’s one of the elements of this book that smells of horror. But also one of the most triumphant aspects as I grew to shout “I wish I only had one arm, too!! Fido rocks!” Fido – one of the arms Maisie builds for herself, all of which smack of “super-power awesome” and made me feel so limited with just a plain ol’ arm.

The horror. This is new to Shannon Hale’s collection of books, of which I have read most. None of her books have this much violence or the stark hopelessness that stories with horror thrive on. The other characters in this book are not rosy. Every single one – except maybe Dad & Luther – have some element of secrecy and hidden motives that affect the outcome of everything monumentally. It feels like everyone is a bad guy and even Maisie’s grip on Right is slippery. Not knowing who to trust creates a very insecure foundation for the entire story. My emotions felt bruised as I tried to look up to this person or that person only to uncover something untrustworthy and potentially horrific in each.

The romance.
There isn't so much, really, except that there is a bit too much, too, which is weird. The conversation that laid the foundation for the romance is suspect of so many ulterior things. He is just a smooth talker. It sounds like he’s sharing his heart, but maybe he’s just acting. Maisie is so new to being courted, maybe her feelings are just a response to his games. There’s so much physical moments that are so new and fresh and exciting, but don’t necessarily have anything to do with something deeper than “that feels good.” Never mind their age. Getting to that part.

This book did not feel like a Shannon Hale which makes me want to give her a sweeping bow. In fact, the words disappeared. What words? I read the majority of this book on the train commuting to and from work and literally had to force myself to stop reading early so I wouldn't miss my stop. Every time I thought the action was slowing down and I could catch my mental breath, Maisie would literally TRIP into another moment twice as intense as the one we just survived. No exaggeration. So the writing is incredible and new territory for one of my favorite authors.

If you can, do yourself a favor and read this book in one sitting.

And fer cryin' out loud, DON'T SKIM! There are no extra words.

Part of me is interested in re-reading this book simply because I can’t believe how clueless I was at the beginning. It has to be a much different experience the second time ‘round. The other part of me is relieved to have gotten through it, cover to cover, and still be alive – like pat myself down everywhere, all systems ok? Ok. PHEW! And I would never put myself through that again. Except, rereading it would not be putting myself through it again because NOW I KNOW!

(Haven't read it, yet? I'm so sorry!)

Spoilery thoughts

DON’T READ THIS UNLESS YOU READ THE BOOK AND ARE AS UNERVED AS I AM! This book begs to be discussed. Don't spoil it though. Seriously. Don't. Just skip down past the purple type and you'll be... as fine as you can possibly be.

Pink fluffy bad guys? I mean, wow. How did she come up with that?! It’s the idea of a soul or spirit that is not affected by gravity… and an alien race that existed in that form primarily and used bodies like shells. CREEPY. Maisie’s thoughts about life-after-death and what happens to our inner beings is the key to the entire concept. This is the kind of creative thought that, in my mind, comes from thinking about the Bible and taking stuff literally. The Bible separates body from soul and spirit and talks about being re-united with a body or how the Word of God is a sharp sword to separate these invisible innards. What if an alien species was evil and cruel and selfish and thought nothing of borrowing our body shells before we were ready to give ‘em up? CREEPY!!!! Making them fluffy and pink only ruined my skippy opinion of cotton candy – it did not lighten up the threat of these aliens.

On the flip side – I love the concept that there are aliens out there who know about us and wanted to give us a fighting chance against these evil pink fluffies! (Pink?)  I love LOVE the concept that they took the essence of the pink fluffy things and created a weapon (or series of weapons) to fight against them with. That the weapons themselves are potentially negative because of where they came from essentially. I love the misunderstanding about how they work. 

I also love how simply effective they are. After all the techno complicated stuff... not to mention the mysterious layers of secrets everywhere, the actual fight was logical. LOVED that!

I enjoyed a lot of things in the end, like how the mad scientist really is a character with her own agenda, but she is consistent and likeable and her love for Dragon is downright beautiful. I loved how Wilder progressed to Wild Card and then Jonathon, someone who Maisie really could/would enjoy spending time with and grow increasingly attracted to.

I did not like being reminded that she is just starting high school and was sleeping with a kid who is also just starting high school. (Sleeping, not “sleeping”.) What is "14 yrs old" coming to these days?! The physical new-ness of their relationship did not feel 14. It felt like ready-to-experience-everything-long-term-and-make-commitments new. So I felt yanked into an older “new” and then yanked back out to a younger “new” that gave me a bit of whiplash. Maisie is at least 16 in my head. Not 14. Please, not 14.

Part of the horror aspect of the story is how real everything is. I can totally see an alien invasion happening that we mistook for something else. The idea that we’d need a 14 yr old to save the world is somewhat akin to the realization that Maisie will be saving the world with one arm. It’s one of those series of things in the book that just made me want to say, “Well, crap. That’s it, then.” Another one was learning that there would be an alien invasion and not quite wrapping my head around the idea of the magnitude… and then realizing that it already happened. We’re invaded and being taken over. There is no stopping it from happening because you didn’t realize it was even going to happen until it was too late to catch it before it happened. “Well, crap. That’s it, then.” 

This was a regular theme. The dawning of realization after it was too late to do anything about it. Like Maisie’s mom. Like Wilder’s dad. Like the responses of the fireteam to their super-powers. Like finding out they had super-powers. Like the space compound being run by someone who’s crazy and loaded with her own agendas. Like not being able to shake GT, who is a real life-n-death size irritation when humanity is on the line. Like realizing that Dragon is really, really, really cool. Like realizing that attraction to someone can’t be changed by willpower, it has a life of its own.

This is one of those books that would be AWESOME to start discussion groups about. There is so much scope for the imagination.

To the one who wants to know… the story is complete in itself and wraps up a million loose ends very deliberately, sweetly, completely. For language, "Frac" is used and "Bleepity Bleep" is used a lot and is sometimes easy to fill in the blanks. For romance, there is kissing and some discussion of button placement and some cozy hanging out. And a lip smoosh. For violence... there is some disturbing stuff including a number of deaths, a healthy amount of blood, some zombie-like behavior including a dog gnawing on a human bone. *shudder* There's some torture and at least four fights to-the-death. The bad guys are really, really bad (so when I say the good guys are suspect of being bad, it's BAD!) They're twisted and heartless and intelligent about it.  Being a good guy in this book is very painful. There's a lot of PAIN, in general.

 If you like Shannon Hale, that’s nice, but be prepared to NOT compare this with any of her other (awesome) works. (Emma Burning had some disturbing moments, I suppose, but not like this.) If you were thinking about reading Shannon Hale for the first time… are you kidding me?! You just happened upon a GOLD MINE of good writing that will astonish long-term. Read all her stuff. I honestly don’t know if this book would top the list for hard sci-fi lovers or horror lovers… but for us fantasy-romance lovers, it’s like jumping into the deep end and getting comfy.

I understand the Love/Hate in the reviews I see on Goodreads. The “love” side of me looks more like “respect”. The “hate” response feels more like… finding myself in the deep end when I expected something else. There’s some “no-no-no-this-can’t-be-happening” that I experienced reading this book. I meant it, too. If I’d’ve stopped reading during one of those moments or skimmed through… I’d’ve given this book a 2. No joke. 

But no… I was drug through the mud and came out the other side lickin’ my fingers ‘cause, by golly, that wasn’t mud, it was chocolate all along.

4.95 Brilliant Stars.

Wanna jump into the deep end for yourself? The first seven chapters are HERE for free.

Obviously things have gotten out of hand in Shannon's world. This is her new bio pic. "That's it, then."

Shannon Hale
is the New York Times best-selling author of nine children's and young adult novels, including multiple award winners The Goose Girl, Book of a Thousand Days, and Newbery Honor recipient Princess Academy. Her latest, Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends, will publish October 2013. She also penned three books for adults, beginning with Austenland, which is now a major motion picture starring Keri Russell. She co-wrote the hit graphic novels Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack with husband Dean Hale. They live with their four small children near Salt Lake City, Utah.

See all of Shannon Hale's books HERE. 

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