THE UNSOUND THEORY
Star Academy, Book 1
by Emilia Zeeland
YA Science Fiction
Yalena Russo, your STAR Academy invitation has arrived.
Unlike other teenagers across the near worlds, Yalena isn't space-crazed. But a surprise invitation to join the exclusive STAR Academy opens a window to her unknown origins, making her ponder… What if space is where she belongs?
Mystified by the leadership trio known as the O'Donnells, as well as the reason they brought her on board, Yalena stumbles onto an alarming secret. Pulled deeper into the mystery by the commander's son, she will find that some riddles can be hard to walk away from—especially if she is the one holding the answers.
Take a plunge into the not-so-near future, where travel is interplanetary, competition is a rush, and even the elite don't always play by the rules.
This is a space adventure perfect for YA fans, who love a tough heroine, a little bit of drama, a touch of romance and a pinch of mystery and sense of rebellion.
Yalena has lived as the adopted daughter of an undercover cop, and thus, under the radar for most of her life. The story behind her original parents and why she was found alone in space, remains a mystery. When the most prestigious academy in the solar system chooses her to be in their next elite class of students, she's skeptical but takes the chance. Not only must she compete against the best, and most already much further than her, but she discovers that her entrance might not be so unexpected after all. When the commander's son drags her into a mystery bordering on conspiracy, life at the academy takes a drastic turn.
I picked this one up thanks to the intriguing blurb, and the book was even better than I thought. Yalena is a character with spunk but heart, a little uncertainty and a lot of determination. Her mysterious beginnings set a great stage for the plot and launch into space. But it isn't just Yalena which makes this such a grabbing tale.
The sub-characters are as necessary to this tale as Yalena. Each person has their own personality, talents, dark sides and personal issues. . .and each one is original and distinct. It was easy not only to care about Yalena, but for all of those around her. Or, in some cases, grow suspicious at their real motives. There's a bit of a high school drama feel, which fits the academy setting wonderfully, and it weaves around the much more serious problems and mystery without overpowering it. The relationships came across naturally, not always perfect and played the emotions to make sure this book wasn't easy to put down.
The first chapters set the scene and lay out the background information in a way that covers a lot of ground but still allows Yalena to grow into her new place in space. Although these first chapters weren't as gripping as the rest of the book tension wise, they were by no means overly slow or mundane and allowed the reader to to get to fall into the characters and world. When Yalena stumbles step by step into the problem, the tension, questions and decisions mount. Yalena is faced with some tough choices, ones which force her to go beyond her own comfort-zone if she wants to reach her goals. There's also a lot in the area of dealing with others, and balancing friendships along the way. Romance filters in here too, but it never competes with the main theme and rides more as a balance on the side.
The only problem I had with this book was toward the ending. Several explanations and thoughts were shoved together too fast in one 'solutions' scene, making it feel rushed. Also, a big revelation hit me as anything but convincing and the emotional reactions to it, because of this, also askew. If it hadn't been for this, this book would have gotten full points from me. It's an exciting read, easy to sink into, has characters to love or hate and pulls in with a great space adventure.
YA science fiction fans who love a little drama aren't going to want to miss this one.