Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: conspiracy theories, political unrest, sci-fi and paranormal, sexuality, LGBT
Format read: Hardback received from the publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: After a freak car accident involving a bird, Reese and David awake from comas in a secret facility, where they’ve been treated for nearly a month. Upon their release, they have no recollection of what happened to them during that time and aren’t allowed to speak to anyone about what they’ve been through.
A story that involves secrecy and conspiracy theories? Sign me up.
Adaptation takes us on a wild ride as we try to piece together what happened to Reese and David after they get in a car accident involving a bird with glowing eyes: Where were they taken? What procedures were done on them? What in the heck happened to them in that facility?
Adaptation drew me in because I wanted to know the truth. I needed answers. Bird attacks have taken down countless planes across the United States and the government seems to be trying to cover up something. Reese believes it’s no coincidence that her last memory before the accident was a bird flying into the headlights of the car she was driving. While I was completely entranced leading up to the accident, my focus was a bit lost after they returned home to San Francisco.
The first 100 pages of Adaptation were strong and fast-paced; I felt connected to Reese and understood the chaos and panic that was overtaking the U.S. It was after this point, when David and Reese are released to go home from the facility, that I felt the story navigated away from its original purpose and became something else. Reese was never a girl who was interested in having a serious relationship — due to her father’s playboy-ish ways, she’s decided to distance herself from dating. When she returns home, she collides (literally) with a girl named Amber on the streets and a relationship quickly blossoms.
This is where I felt the story changed direction. Reese is trying to figure out who she is and is a bit confused by her sudden attraction to a girl. At least a quarter (if not a little more) of the book was dedicated to Reese’s sexuality. While I did enjoy this part of the book, I felt like I was left hanging and very little was progressing with what drew me into the story: what happened to Reese and David. I would have liked to have seen these two stories collide and more of David thrown into the mix to make Reese’s later confused emotions make more sense. (David was a character I wish had been more developed overall; for an event that happened to two people, the focus was primarily on Reese, leaving David very one dimensional.) While later the stories blended together, I felt much more dedicated to the beginning and end of the story.
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying – I do understand Reese’s questioning of her sexuality and how a teenager can put everything else aside to chase after love. (Raise your hand if you’ve done this.) I am not discounting the impact or influence Lo will have; I believe it will speak volumes to those questioning or seeking to understand their sexuality and it will resonate with those who have been there. I simply hoped that Reese had been more driven to find out answers about what happened to her. Adaptation would have been more impactful if Lo had fused the sci-fi beginning and end with the very contemporary, explorative middle.
Despite my drawbacks, Lo successfully left me aching to know what happens to her characters. The blending of paranormal elements and conspiracy theories was incredibly intriguing. Pieces of the story felt so real to me that I couldn’t help but be wary of flocks of birds when I saw them. I have no idea what will happen next for Reese, but I am very anxious to see what Lo has in store for us.