Book Review by Debbie Winkler
Author: Anne Osterlund
Publisher: Speak (May 2009)
ISBN: 0142414379, EAN: 9780142414378
Page Count: 272 pages
Aerin Renning is an escaped slave whose father died in a horrific crash. Dane Madousin is the youngest son of the most powerful man on the Allied Council. They have nothing in common except they both tested in the top 50 on the A.E.E. exam and are part of the exclusive first-year class at the competitive Academy 7. At first, Aerin thinks that Dane is simply mocking her in class and goes out of her way to avoid him and everyone else, terrified that someone will uncover her secret and get her kicked out of school. But as Dane spends more time with Aerin, they both come to realize that they have more in common than either one of them realized. Together, they make the perfect team in uncovering the mysteries of the past…
I picked up this book at the library on a whim and thought that it would be a fairly typical book where boy meets girl at an exclusive boarding school and then they realize that they are soul mates or vampires or something like that, but boy was I wrong! I reread the back of the book again after I read the first chapter and can’t believe that they left out such an important aspect of the book – it is science fiction! Academy 7 is set on a remote planet within Alliance space. So I found a big surprise at the beginning of the book and the plot twists just kept on coming from there! It is so rare for me not to “see” where a book is going, especially with most of the popular fiction that is out there for teens right now that this book was a delightful surprise! Dane’s father is part of the 11-person Allied Council that helps rule the universe. Aerin’s father was killed in a spaceship crash and was enslaved on a backwater planet that is not part of the Alliance. Technology and computers play a big part in the secrets that the Council is keeping from Aerin and Dane. I love that I couldn’t predict what was going to happen and that Aerin was a total wildcard as a character. The story took such crazy twists and turns that I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next!
I loved the juxtaposition of Aerin and Dane as the primary characters in the book. Aerin spent the months leading up to her attendance at Academy 7 studying everything about the Alliance. Once school begins, she can be found either in class or in the library at all times. Aerin tries so hard to seal off her emotions so that she won’t fall apart after her father’s death, her enslavement, and her amazing escape. She has had to endure so much in her life and is still trying to figure out where she belongs. Aerin hopes that Academy 7 is that place, but knows that she could be expelled at any time. A fierce fighter, Aerin ranks top of the class in all of her classes, including physical self-defense, except in Debate, where she is second to Dane. Dane appears to be a spoiled son of wealth and privilege. He always skates as close to the edge as he can, even if his life is in danger. One of Dane’s greatest joys is flying his private jet. His other greatest joy is making his father furious. Unbeknownst to anyone outside his small family, Dane is a victim of abuse and doesn’t value his life because no one else does either. Blamed for his mother’s dead in childbirth, Dane has never known what is like to be truly loved by another. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these two characters come together. They appeared so different on the surface when I first met them, but I came to discover that they were a great match for each other and complimented each other in ways that I didn’t expect.
The universe that Anne Osterlund has created here was fascinating and added an extra layer of depth to make this book something special. The Alliance is a group of star systems that have like-minded goals in regards to moral codes, government and treatment of citizens. Each planet elects delegates to bring their concerns and issues to the Council, which is run by four respected leaders. X-level planets have governments that allow inhumane treatment, which keeps them out of the Alliance. In counterpart to the Alliance is the Trade Union, the second most powerful government next to the Alliance. They specialize in infiltrating governments and taking them over. The Trade Union is slowly challenging the Alliance as they continue to expand their power base. They do not care about inhumane treatment or morals, they just want raw materials and a strong military so they can take down the Alliance. What is holding the Alliance back is the very morals that they believe in. Younger citizens like Aerin and Dane don’t know it yet, but they are desperately needed to usher in a whole new era in the Alliance. The ending of this book is open, I feel, for sequels. The students have two more years at Academy 7 before they graduate and then they can go on to achieve anything! Unfortunately, I was not able to find any news about a sequel planned in this universe, but I am still hopeful!
This is the first book that I read by Anne Osterlund and I was very impressed. I immediately went and got her other two books, Aurelia and Exile, (not in the same universe from what I can tell) and look forward to some more original entertainment. If you are looking for something different to read in teen fiction and are tired of paranormal romances with love triangles, this is a fresh choice that I really enjoyed. I loved the characters, I found the world really intriguing and the story was full of the unexpected. Treat yourself to something new and different – attend a year at Academy 7!
This book contains bullying, enslavement, murder, death of parents, fighting and some intense emotions. Recommended for ages 12 and up.