Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson: Book One of the Lila Series

In fairness to Sarah Alderson, I feel that it is necessary to say that this book falls under the category of paranormal YA, a genre which I am not particularly fond of.

Lily is a 17 year old girl who is haunted by the death of her mother.  If that were not enough to deal with, she has telekinesis, and the man that she has loved all of her life (yes, I rolled my eyes) Alex, lives an ocean away from her. Unable to deal with the death of his wife, Lily's father moved her back to his native England.  He had intended to move their entire family, but her brother Jack, refused to move and instead moved in with his best friends family. 

In an incident in which she is being mugged Lila uses her power and in the process nearly cuts out her attackers eye. This sets her on edge and she steals her fathers credit card and travels to California to stay with her brother Jack,  filled with the hope that she will also get to see his best friend Alex.  As an impetus to flee, I found this absolutely ridiculous.  Was she supposed to throw a party for the men that were intent on mugging her?  It was a clear case of self defense and how Lily understood the incident really felt like an excuse for Alderson to shift the location of her story.

Once in California, Jack and Alex make it clear that her visit places her in danger, because they work for a special Black ops section of the military. Lily tries to pry for information but they steadfastly refuse to share.  After Suki, one of the people that they are searching for makes contact with Lily and learns of Lily's relationship to Jack, Alex realises that for her own protection, she must be told exactly what she is up against.  It seems that unit is involved in an investigation into a group of terrorists that are guilty of terrible crimes and the ring leader Demos, is the man responsible for murdering Lily's mother.  As much as Lily wants justice, she worries that Alex and Jack are placing themselves needlessly in danger. Okay, have to pause to point out the ridiculousness of this worry.  Jack and Alex spent three years being trained by the military in special operations.  These men aren't just skilled, they are highly skilled. 

When Lily is contacted by Key, the first being that she has ever met with a special power, she learns that things may not be as black and white as they seem.  Lily learns that Alex and Jack are tasked with hunting down people like her and the unit is responsible for doing medical experiments upon these enhanced humans. Key asks her for help, because his son has become involved with the very same terrorists that Jack and Alex are looking for.

In the middle of all of this, Lily spends a great deal of time angsting about how Alex feels about her and worrying that he will never see her as anything other than his best friends little sister.  She is constantly staring at him and obsessing about him in a way that to be quite honest is downright creepy.  Every single woman that comes within a mile of Alex is a threat and competition.  She continually compares herself to other women and of course judges herself to be lacking.

Finally, Lily is forced to reveal her power to Alex who is repulsed. All he can think about is everything the government told him about enhanced human beings, and how this does not mesh with anything he knows about Lily. The situation escalates when Lily is kidnapped by the supposed terrorists and Alex and Jack are forced to choose between their love for her, and their loyalty to their unit.

Lily is the classic spunky agent. She puts herself in dangerous situations without thinking through the consequences, though she knows that her life is in jeopardy.  She has the self esteem of gnat and seems at times to be defiant for the sake of being defiant.  The only motivation which seems to even remotely move her is her love obsession with Alex.  In fact, the majority of Lily's thoughts are about Alex.  If I were him, I'd be worried.  In fact, you could probably skip a good portion of her angst without losing the thread of the story.

I wasn't expecting much inclusion in this book, but I must say that Alderson surprised. Suki is a Japanese woman and she can read minds. Her power is essential to the enhanced human group, though once again the most powerful is of course a straight White cisgender man. It seems no matter how much humans advance, hierarchy must remain unchanged. We also have a gay character in the from of Nate. Nate is very powerful and integral to the group because of his ability to astro project. Unfortunately, we are told that Nate spends his time projecting on the base and following all of the cute soldiers.  This of course plays into the predatory gay man theme that is so prevalent. Many of the straight characters have love interests but Nate can only virtually stalk men that he finds attractive.

In terms of writing style, Alderson really needs to pick either North American euphemisms or a British ones.  North Americans say mom, and not mum. I don't buy that Lily,  who was isolated for much of her time in the U.K. would have naturalized so much of the everyday vernacular to the point of not having American speech patterns. If she is so determined to include British euphemisms she should have set the story in the U.K.

I read Hunting Lila pretty quickly.  It's not a boring read, but it isn't fascinating either.  As YA goes this book is pretty much standard fare.