Series: The Change #1
Genre: Post Apocalyptic
Release Date: 11th November, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
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Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, "the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. "Las Anclas" now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.
Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.
I was actually pretty pleasantly surprised by this book. With review copies it’s always a bit of a leap of faith, so it was nice to be reading this story and enjoying it, because I honestly wasn’t sure I would.
So, Stranger. It’s a book set in a future where civilisation has broken away from big city life due to war/disease/solar flares (wasn’t real clear on this part but like, insert your generic post-apocalyptic reason and carry on) and the population that has survived now mostly live in tiny, extremely well fortified frontier towns. Without a government, the law of the land pretty much has fallen to local town sheriffs and whoever can raise up an army to take over territory. Kind of like a metaphor for drug lords, it felt like. Also there’s a whole thing with people who have genetically modified genes that grant them ~special~ abilities that range from the extremely badass (control over weather) to the pathetic (control over dust).
The town of Las Anclas, where Stranger takes place, is an extremely well defended frontier town that prides itself on never having been invaded (lol). It is also a town in which racism and prejudice are alive and thriving, except it’s now directed at the Changed (the X Men) by Norms, a term that explains itself. The book introduces us to an absolute boatload of characters, from Jennie, the teacher/Ranger, to Felicite, the daughter of the most outspoken racist in town, to Ross, the character whom the book is more or less named after. One thing that is immediately apparent is how diverse this book is. There is not only racial diversity but equal importance to genders, and there are several LGBT relationships to boot. It is a book that illustrates how easy it is to diversify fiction; characters aren’t just different races, they eat different food from different parts of the world, practice different religions, fight in different styles, speak different languages…the list goes on.
The main plot follows Ross, a prospector who has crossed the desert to escape the clutches of a
drug lord evil guy and the secrets he hides. There’s a lot of back and forth about whether Ross is trustworthy, what he could have done to earn the wrath of an drug lord evil guy, and also singing vampire trees that kill people horribly and turn the colour of their clothes (lmao they’re like cowplants, I want one). Also giant rattlesnakes and something everyone fears, known only as a Pit Mouth. I like to think it’s a giant Pit Viper tbh. I don’t know, a lot of stuff goes on in this book.
Aside from the giant rattlesnakes, cowplant trees, and Pit Mouths that were all undeniably my favourite aspects of the book, I also want to mention the threeway relationship that made me cackle with victory, and the character who kind of ended up becoming my stealth fave – Felicite. She is a layered character with deeply rooted prejudices, and while her POV was incredibly frustrating to read at times I found myself more interested in her than any other character, especially when things are revealed towards the end of the book. Also Henry/Felicite OTP, I don’t even care.
I did however find the multiple POVs annoying and frankly unnecessary. I don’t like stories with more than one narrator anyway but ones with more than three POVs reads like someone desperately juggling to keep all their balls in the way, and it just doesn’t work for me at all. There’s also a love triangle which, eh although I do so deeply approve of how it developed into a comfortable threeway for a time. So this book definitely deserves a read; it’s very different and surprisingly engaging. It’s not without flaws but I do think the good outweighs the bad with this one.