Dove Arising by Karen Bao • Estelle Reviews

Dove Arising by Karen BaoDove Arising by Karen Bao ( web | tweet )
Part of Dove Chronicles.
Publication Date: 2/24/2015
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Pages: 336
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: science fiction, Moon, family, bravery
Format read: ARC from Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Phaet does her best to remain incognito as she lives her life on the Moon with her mother and siblings. But when her mom is taken away, she only has one option when it comes to supporting her and her siblings — to join the Militia. Being away from her family and her best friend combined with being the youngest training for a position weighs on Phaet, but unexpected bonds and the future of her family keep her going.

I may not be a huge science fiction reader but I am a big fan of eclectic reading palettes and debut writers — especially when those debut writers wrote their book secretly during their senior year in high school. It’s so darn impressive!

I felt a strong Mulan vibe from the moment I started Dove Arising. Main character Phaet (“fate”) and Mulan have a lot in common — both are willing to go to great lengths for the ones they love, even if it means putting themselves in danger. Phaet is only 15 years old but when her mother is arrested she steps up to the plate in a big way — willing to leave her siblings and her best friend to join the Militia and earn money to pay her mother’s bail and support the household.

It’s bold, it’s crazy, and, with a ton of training, it just might work.

Author Karen Bao isn’t presenting the Moon as a must-see destination by any means. It’s dismal, heavily monitored by the government, and sounds like the kind of place where life is all about going through the motions. Very few of the Moon citizens shake things up, and when/if they do, they become a target. Even Phaet’s tone is filled with defeat through most of the book. She is a product of her environment: extremely quiet and shy but full of observations and emotions she’s never comfortable expressing. Later, I liked how this trait morphed into one of her strengths.

Not only is Phaet making a huge decision about her future, but she struggling to gain her mother’s acceptance, mourning her deceased father, and coming to terms with feelings she has for the most unexpected person. She’s forced to grow up so fast, and I trust the repercussions from that sacrifice are only just beginning. Will it all be worth it? Does she have the power to help change her world?

In series, I find many of the first books focus a ton on world-building and providing readers with a foundation. There were so many great details here (particularly, Phaet’s hair) and the more action packed scenes felt like I was in the middle of a simulator ride. (Even if the urgency wasn’t turned up where it needed to be.) It’s my hope with the next two books, Bao dives deeper into Phaet’s character development and her emotions. In Dove Arising, I admired Phaet for her loyalty but I wished I had connected with her on other levels too.

I did discover something about myself while reading this. I’m really fascinated about the details that lead to Earth’s demise in books like these. Does this make me a sadist? Or maybe a secret sci-fi geek?

One final thing: I can’t tell you much about the ending. I mean, I won’t tell you anything about the ending, but I got a little giddy when I realized just how Bao was challenging Phaet next. It’s going to make for a very interesting second book, that’s for sure.

rather be reading borrow from the library icon

Add DOVE ARISING to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

Steal the North by Heather B. Bergstrom | Estelle Reviews

Steal the North by Heather BergstromSteal the North by Heather B. Bergstorm ( facebook )
Publication Date: April 10, 2014
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 336
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: family secrets, faith, nature, young love
Format read: Borrowed from library after glowing rec from Leah at The Pretty Good Gatsby.

Summary: Sixteen year old Emmy is shipped off to spend the summer with an aunt and uncle she never knew existed. Her aunt is pregnant, and after a series of miscarriages, the church is performing a ritual on her and they need a family member who is also a virgin. Emmy spends her summer getting to know her delicate aunt, her loving uncle, and the boy next door — Reuben — who becomes the closest friend she has ever had. Time with her aunt means many questions about the secrets her mom kept, who she really is, and affects who she wants to become.

This is hands down one of the best fiction books I’ve picked up in years.

I was nervous about it, too. Leah over at The Pretty Good Gatsby awarded the book such high praise. Wanting to feel the same felt like an added pressure but a chapter in, I was hooked. With Steal the North, you aren’t sucked in in a way where you want to speed read the whole thing. As the book shifts POVs from the big hitters like Emmy, her mom (Kate), her aunt (Beth), and Reuben (the boy next door) to the smaller characters, there is a lot of exposition. Explanations of backgrounds, family trees, and a lot of beautiful description of this Pacific Northwest town. The land is its own character because in all of these stories, it has been a catalyst in the decisions then make and who they are all destined to become.

Emmy is a bit of a conundrum. There are so instances she acts so wise and so much older than she is, but there are others where she can be so naive and so inexperienced in life. She is so tied to her mom because for so long Kate made her believe it was them against the world. No other relatives and a dead father. But imagine the surprise when Emmy finds out that her own story is not what she thought at all. She is quickly sent off to stay with her Aunt Beth and Uncle Matt for the summer, without enough time to deal with the repercussions of her mother’s many lies.

Immediately, Emmy and Beth are like peas and carrots. The intimacy and connection they shared when Emmy was just a baby is back, and they spend much of the summer getting to know each other all over again. I loved their relationship. Beth and Matt are very into the church, but they don’t expect Emmy to believe what they believe and I liked the respect they had for her. Her time alone eventually leads to her spending a lot of time with Reuben, a Native American teenager, who lives in the trailer next door.

It was Beth and Reuben’s belief in much more than what they could see that took Steal the North to a whole new level for me. Beth concocting her antidotes around the house, and Reuben sensing the presence of his dead father, and both of their commitments to the earth fused to create this overpowering spirituality in the whole book. The secrets and the pasts of these characters was haunting every scene, and the fear, the shame, and even the hope was so palpable. It’s overwhelming to think words on a page could be this powerful.

Steal the North is a love story not limited to the feelings between Reuben and Emmy. Mothers and daughters, sisters, husbands and wives, and most importantly how we feel about ourselves. The sense of loyalty, the heartbreaking betrayal, and the tough decisions we make because of our love for others can be found throughout the story. I laughed, I swooned, I cried, and I wondered if this family could ever be whole again. Could Emmy break out of her shell and trust? Could she forgive her mother and forgive herself?

This book is as much about death as it is rebirth. I am totally in awe of Bergstorm’s talents: how well she described the land, her decisions to reveal important information what she did, her pick of what character got to tell what, and most importantly, how she challenged her characters and stretched them beyond their comfort zones. Life could be hard, and it could also be good. Very, very good.

From the writing to the characters to how invested I felt in the smallest detail to the biggest, Steal the North is a book I am going to give a special spot on my bookshelf and buy for others whenever I get the chance.

Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

Add STEAL THE NORTH to Goodreads | Buy on B&N | Buy on Amazon