If you know anything about me, the first thing you'll know is how much I love Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant. I read Animorphs from the second I was deemed old enough, and I absolutely ate them up. I haven't read much else by the duo, but I'm working on the Remnants series, and I liked Grant's Gone. This is the first and only project they've done together since Remnants ended in 2003. And it didn't disappoint a bit. This is a fun book, reminiscent of Animorphs. It's far from perfect - the first 30 pages or so are unbelievably rushed, the ending was also rushed and sort of unsatisfying, and Eve wasn't developed quite the way I'd like. Still, this was a fast-paced, well written thriller, and I loved every second of it.
I'll get this out of the way first: yes, this is conceptually similar to the Maximum Ride series. They share the same sense of fun, the focus on genetic engineering and an evil scientist cooperation, and the focus on action. In all of these regards, I'd say that Eve and Adam is like Maximum Ride, only better. This novel subverts cliches instead of relying on them, it handles teenspeak far better than Patterson ever did (making it better written, since the teenspeak is pretty much the only element of Patterson's writing), its plot actually seems to have been thought out by someone who knew the meaning of the word 'continuity', and its characters are much more interesting.
Normally, I don't like action oriented novels, unless we're talking about middle-grade. But books by Applegrant are the exception. Their action scenes are much better written than most of the ones you're likely to find in YA, and they really know how to add in character development without letting the pacing drag. They sometimes take the pacing element a bit far (such as in the very beginning), but it's largely not an issue. This actually applies to a lesser extent here than Applegrant's other novels; this is easily the lightest thing they've ever written. Basically, if you liked the action here, you'll loveRemnants, Animorphs, and Gone.
A lot of people complained about the pacing throughout the novel's first half, but I didn't have a problem with it. Applegrant does a good job of not letting the characters not focus on one thing for too long, meaning that it felt like lots of things were happening, even when that wasn't the case. Plus, there were a few mysteries abound for that length, giving the novel a sense of tension. The reveals weren't always completely surprising, but they were always interesting, and they always had the ramifications that this kind of twist deserved.
But it feels like an injustice to the book for me to only focus on the action; after all, what I liked was that Applegrant seamlessly wove together action and character development, not the action on its own. The cast of characters here was almost completely on par with Applegrant's normal characterization skills. I say 'almost', because while Eve was well-rendered, she wasn't particularly interesting.
But everyone else was. I really liked Solo; his emotional arc was interesting to me. Applegrant did an excellent job portraying someone who had no parents, who had felt abandoned and unloved for the last few years of his life. The reveal about his family in the end felt completely appropriate for his arc, and added to it beautifully; I hope to see this expanded upon in the sequel.
I also really liked Aislin. She'll seem like a stereotype of a bad girl at first, what with hanging out with an obviously dangerous boyfriend, doing drugs, carrying condoms in her purse, and constantly being called a slut by Evening's mom. Stick with her; by the end of the novel, Applegrant fully explored how messed up her life really is, along with how dangerous her boyfriend is for her and how hard it is for her to break up with him.
And then there's Adam. Adam reminded me a lot of Ax; someone who was adgusting to a completely unfamiliar world, and being absolutely hysterical about it. Well, it's not so much him that's hilarious as the people around him reacting to his hotness in a hilariously over-the-top way. Anyway, as with Ax, I found him to be a nice exploration of how someone unfamiliar with our world would react to it.
It's also behind Adam that lies Applegrant's message in this book. I was worried going in that I'd get a predictable and predictably annoying anti-science message, as with Maximum Ride. But actually, I was pleasantly surprised; the message was an exploration of whether science was good or bad, whether it was worth it to break the law and hurt a few people to save millions. It's surprisingly thought-provoking stuff, and it certainly had me thinking after the novel's ending.
Don't go into this novel expecting something gut-wrenching; you won't get it. Because this is commercial-lit, just as much as it's about its characters. That's part of what makes it so interesting, that Applegrant created something that'll appeal to fans of action-oriented books (specifically MG) and also appeal to fans of more literary YA. It's not literary in itself, but it's reminiscent of the literary novels that Applegate's been writing lately. You don't need the emotions to be gut-wrenching to be interesting, as Applegrant proves to me time and time again.
The commercial-lit elements are aided by the writing, which is breezy and effortless without being simplistic. This is one of the better novels featuring teenspeak I've read; Applegrant demonstrates a surprisingly good understanding of how teenagers actually talk, so it never felt forced or obligatory. Plus, each character had their own separate voice, so I never had to check back to see who was narrating. In particular, I liked Solo's voice. It did a good job of showing how he's trapped between being a regular teenager and being an unrealistically smart computer genius.*
If I had one major complaint (and I do), it's an overall lack of tension. In the first half, the stakes are almost completely nonexistent for Eve, which probably contributes to my feeling that she's uninteresting and the complaints of poor pacing throughout the first half. The second half has the opposite problem; the stakes change too quickly for us to get a real sense of peril. We know exactly what happens if Solo and Eve succeed, but not if they fail. This makes for a less exciting plot, and it's the main thing that makes me feel like this is a good example of a standard Applegrant novel, only less successful.
But overall, this is still one of the best pieces of commercial literature I've ever read. It was well-written, with interesting characters and a plot that was well thought out. Its appeal is far more universal than most of YA, and by that I mean it appeals to boys just as much as girls.** If you're into action, or even more thought-provoking, literary stuff, I could picture you being satisfied by this book; I certainly was.
*Because seriously, I don't care how much time you've spent around computers, nobody without college training is as good with them as Solo is.
**Well, everything I read appeals to boys to some extent, because I read it, but this appeals to the average boy.