Strange Skies by Kristi Helvig

The first book in the series, Burn Out, had some interesting ideas that was let down by somewhat poor writing. I reviewed it well, however, due to liking the snarkiness of the main character.  Book two, however, feels very much like a sophomore effort in which the author ran out of story in book one and is prolonging this into a trilogy.  As such, the problems with writing, pace, and characters in the first book are magnified in the second. I had a hard time finishing Strange Skies and began to skim disinterestedly – nothing here furthered the story from where it left off in book 1.

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Story: Tora wakes up in a consulate detention center on a beautiful forest planet – so different from the burned out husk that is Earth. Bitter that her love interest James shot her and left her for the Consulate, she is unhappy to be reunited with him when Alec springs her. If facing the consulate wasn’t tough enough, now she has to deal with rebels, especially Kale, who may equally want her dead.

Most of the plot of Strange Skies was inert – a lot of running around and doing nothing. When the action did happen, I didn’t believe any of it. E.g., the rebellion being fully run by teens/young adults, the various battles at the end that should have been conclusively finished in minutes but weren’t, even that the consulate would take their two most valuable prisoners to a place with a large rebellion camp nearby – one they supposedly couldn’t find. In other words, once again, the government is so stupid one had to wonder how it managed at all (I’m not even going to get into the logistics of Tora’s ‘escape’).

Most problematic for me is that the characters are grossly underwritten.  They change personalities constantly (You jerk James, You jerk James, Ooh Kiss me James, You jerk, James!). This was noticeable in the first book but with a second book containing so many ‘second book’ scenes and being so static, it became annoying. I think the problem is that the author doesn’t give us any transitions from love to hate, brave to callow, scared to uncaring, and back again constantly. Yes, people can change opinions but we need to see the process/justification for that change or the mood swings cause whiplash and take away believability.

Typical YA cliches appearing here: rebellion is as bad as the government, love triangle, instaluv, love interest has conflict with heroine over something to force them apart for most of the second book, lost parent found.  The love triangle was really appalling, to be honest.  One of the worst I’ve read in a long time.

I’m rating this 3 stars but feel I am being generous. I didn’t enjoy Strange Skies at all and skimmed through the last 1/4 just to finish it.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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