I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – science fiction is an underrepresented genre in YA, and I can’t quite figure out why. There are plenty of sci-fi books out there, but I love how in the context of YA it becomes a unique, creative vehicle for a character-driven or coming-of-age story. But it seems like lately there is a little bit of a shift toward more sci-fi-oriented YA, and Margaret Fortune’s Nova is a fantastic example of why that is a very good thing.
Let me tell you what this book is about in a few sentences:
A teenage girl is actually a genetically engineered human bomb – it is her entire purpose in life. She is sent to a rival space station to destroy it, but right before she’s set to explode, she glitches. Her clock stops, and now she has no idea if, when, or how she might go off.
Try to tell me you’re not sold! It’s such a cool concept. There are so many layers to this story – obviously the bomb situation is a big deal, but our girl Lia’s unexpected extra time alive opens up the door for so many other things. At the beginning of the story, Lia is dead set on “going nova.” She’s looking forward to it, in fact. It is her one purpose in life and she is ready to fulfill it. But Lia doesn’t know who she is. She can’t remember anything before her trip to the space station, but she is knows that she has memories of a girl named Lia. Whether these are legitimate memories or memories implanted in her to successfully get her past the military psychics, we’re not really sure, but over time Lia starts to unravel all sorts of craziness related to her origin.
And then there’s Michael, the boy who actually knew the real Lia back on his home planet and immediately takes Lia under his wing. Initially Lia wants to avoid him; she has no interest in human contact or relationships because she just wants to explode, gosh darn it. But the persistence and kindness shown by Michael and his family start to win Lia over. Suddenly she has people she cares about on the space station, and the idea of blowing them up is a struggle, to say the least.
Finally, there’s Lia’s mission itself. Why was she sent to blow up this space station? In the midst of an intergalactic war, which side is she on? And let me tell you, as this piece of the story unravels, things start to get super creepy.
I loved the originality of this story and the huge character arc Lia goes through between the first and last pages of the book. I loved the world-building and the details Fortune included to give clues to readers as the book progresses. I received an ARC so the final version might be a bit different, but I do think Nova could have benefitted from a little editing. It has the potential to be a constant page-turner, but as it is there are some slow spots for sure. The nice thing about the slow spots is that they still function to help give you details about the space station and the world it’s in, but I’m not sure all of it was necessary.
Otherwise, my only real gripe with this book was the ending. It wasn’t a bad ending….it was a really appropriate ending, actually. The only issue I had was that it didn’t feel like an adequate conclusion for all the setup in the book, but it also didn’t really feel like a hook into a series, which I guess it is supposed to be. If you’re setting up a series, I need a little more feeling of high stakes – which there totally are, I just didn’t feel that with how the end was written. But it’s okay, really, because Nova was such a unique and memorable read that I have no doubt I’ll jump at the sequel.