skygiants: the main cast of Capital Scandal smiling in a black-and-white photo (children of the revolution)
[personal profile] skygiants
I read an early draft of Stranger, by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, but that was long enough ago that by the time it came out for real I had forgotten how much I liked it!

Stranger is sent in a post-apocalyptic southern California, but the kind of post-apocalyptic where everyone's had a few generations to get used to the changes and build new towns and economic systems and pay high prices for pre-apocalyptic artifacts that provide fascinating scraps of information on that strange historical era. Also the kind of post-apocalyptic where some people have mutant powers!

The story takes place in the relatively stable town of Las Anclas and focuses on a set of teenagers:

ROSS, a solitary teenaged wanderer with a tragic backstory and severe PTSD, who is found mostly-dead by the (semi)-friendly inhabitants of Las Anclas
MIA, a socially awkward mechanical genius whose father is the town doctor and therefore is the one who is like 'PLEASE DAD can we keep him? :D' when Ross ends up in their spare room
JENNIE, Mia's best friend who has pulled slightly away from her due to being a rising star in the local militia and very competent at everything; also, telekinetic!
YUKI, who was adopted into the town when he was a kid after his own tragic backstory, and is desperate to learn enough skills to GO EXPLORING and GET AWAY
FELICITE, the mayor's pretty daughter, all sweetness and light on the outside and private schemes and jealousy on the inside; the actual worst and also the most interesting to me!

The first half of the book is a bit slow to start, mostly focusing on setting up the town and the dynamics and the tensions that exist between people who have mutant superpowers and people that don't; eventually there's an external enemy and a climactic battle and some very effective set pieces involving murderous singing mutant crystal trees, but it's the long-term throughlines that are most interesting to me -- that, and the feeling of community, and a lot of interconnected people who know each other very well and are important to each other.

My favorite plotline is Felicité's, because at first Felicité looks like the same Pretty Mean Girl who shows up in a lot of Sherwood Smith's books, but there's layers to her that that girl doesn't usually get. The exploration of her inherited prejudice and how that affects her is INCREDIBLY interesting. Felicité's whole family is set up as antagonists and for good reasons, but they're also real-feeling people who care about each other, and about the town, which is one of the things I like best about the book.

I also love that sympathetic characters often dislike each other or misjudge each other; Yuki's simmering irritation with Ross is ... kind of delightful to me? And all the different kinds of shapes the families and relationships take (not to mention all the people of different races and cultures and sexualities both foregrounded and backgrounded; I don't think any of the protagonists is white.) Although given the fact that the Ross/Jennie/Mia triangle involves a.) one kid who is so traumatized he can barely touch other people without freaking out, b.) one kid who is seriously questioning whether she might be asexual (she isn't, I feel I should say, in case anyone is going in hoping for ace representation and is disappointed -- ace is about the one thing not represented as far as I can tell), c.) one kid who starts out still in a different relationship, and d.) all of them basically inventing the idea of polyamory from scratch, I am AMAZED that the whole thing is sorted out in as cheerful and mature a fashion as it is. Happy about it! Good for you, kids! Just also amazed!

And now I get to settle in and wait for the next book like everyone else.

Date: 2014-12-10 03:35 am (UTC)
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookblather
According to Sherwood Smith, no one of the protagonists is white. You are correct there.

I can't wait to read this boooook.

Date: 2014-12-10 05:59 pm (UTC)
thewickedlady: ([tea] daisies are my favorite)
From: [personal profile] thewickedlady

Date: 2014-12-12 09:03 pm (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: I was distracted by boobies! (@ boobies!)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
The Ross/Jennie/Mia triad is the complete antithesis of all those wangsty who-will-they-choose will-they/won't they stupid-misunderstandings love triangles, and I would love it for that reason alone if for no other. BUT, it is also not just two people who are OK with sharing a partner, but who also have an existing strong friendship going into it. It's also the opposite of the "torn apart by a boy" trope. Hell, I'm not sure whether to call it a triangle or what--it's not quite an equal-sided triad (at least so far) because the girls aren't written as being in a romantic relationship with each other, but on the other hand their friendship is as much a vital Thing as the Ross/Jennie and Ross/Mia romantic ships, if not moreso. They basically decide to date him together before he quite realizes that romance is on the table with either of them. :P I honestly kind of ship Jennie/Mia more than anything, though if I were Ross I'd have that exact reaction to That Red Dress, so... :D


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