Polaris by Mindee Arnett

Polaris is an action-packed final volume in the Avalon duology, finishing the overall story arc in a very thrilling manner. As with the first book, we have an intriguing blend of betrayals, politics, and desperate dealings. Seamlessly integrated into that is author Arnett’s ability to write characters with vulnerabilities and pathos. Once started, I could not put the book down and read it through completely in one night.

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Story: The ITA knows Jeth has what it wants; to force his hand, they broadcast a galaxy-wide call for his arrest. Desperate, out of food and any other options, Jeth’s only option to save his crew will be to sell his mother’s information to the underworld organizations that nearly just destroyed his family. For the universe isn’t large enough to hide them yet also give them the supplies they need to live – and it seems everyone wants them dead.

While I enjoyed Avalon, it was not on one of my top lists last year. Polaris, however, exceeded my expectations.  The plot and characters were nuanced, deep, and lacked the inevitable predictability of most YA plots. There were so many twists and turns that I was constantly surprised at where fate was going to take the crew next. Several times I caught myself holding my breath in anticipation of seeing how Jeth or the group would survive that particular situation.

For once, we don’t have a YA with a prince charming and spunky girl who fall in love and the world doesn’t bother them too much about it. Rather, Jeth is already in a relationship, he’s nearly broken from his experiences and a world out to destroy him, and he is vulnerable and makes mistakes. Arnett really backs her main character into a corner as his life continues to go from worse to worse. Absolutely nothing works out well, there are no pat situations, and Jeth can only make do with the cards he has been played.  It makes for a gripping and far more grounded read. And I liked Jeth all the more for those weaknesses that balanced (or canceled) his strengths.

Those who like sci fi will enjoy the Avalon series – it’s not a soppy YA romance.  Those who are more into YA and not sci fi can also enjoy the series because it doesn’t make the eyes bleed with technical jargon or mystical alien descriptions.  Arnett goes light on the science and keeps the book’s focus on the people.

As Jeth reaches new lows, the book is a bit slower in the middle. Especially after the non-stop action of the beginning, it can be a bit anti-climactic. As well, the pervasive feel of absolute desperation, of being in so bleak a situation and yet with no way out, that it can be hard to find the will to continue reading as Jeth is thrown from frying pan to fire – then into another frying pan.  But those scenes are important and give poignancy to the story before the actions resumes in earnest for the rest of the book, building up to the finale. I was glad they were there.

Polaris isn’t a perfect book but I enjoyed it so much that it is an easy 5-star rating from me. It was a pleasure to read a book that really gets teens/people right and makes them more than flat cardboard characters. I greatly enjoyed reading the Avalon crews’ story and although the ending finished on a great note, I admit I would have loved to read more with a third volume.

Reviewed from an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher.

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