When I think about Malinda Lo, shivers of delight run up my spine. And why’s that? It’s because whenever I read something by her I know that piece is going to be quintessential YA – a story about a teenager figuring out their place in their world and finding their own voice. And, even more than that, it’s going to be well-written, well-plotted and, this is the best part, unblinkingly honest about the complexities of teenage life. That, that’s the part that makes me always look forward to what Malinda Lo is going to write. So, yes, I’d read whatever she wrote. But to discover her latest book, Adaptation, was going to be science-fiction, a genre I have a nerd’s special and life-long devotion to? Well, I could hardly contain my excitement.
And, with another shiver of delight, I was quite happy to discover that Adaptation not only lived up to all my expectations but exceeded them. This book is the YA book I’ve been waiting for, the YA book of my dreams. It’s the YA book your collection is missing. It’s a perfect blend of several genres: it has elements of contemporary YA, science-fiction, and romance. It’s a book about how you’d handle it if the creeping feeling that, as a teenager, there was something off about you, something different indeed, turned out to be … true.
Damn! There they are again, the shivers of delight!
I hesitate to spoil Adaptation because, as with all the best written and well structured books, so much of the pleasure of it comes from the unfolding of the whiz-bang revelations of each chapter. So, without spoiling I can say that this is the story of some very mysterious and unexplained things that happen to a teenage girl named Reese. The story kicks off with planes all over the country suddenly being downed by large flocks of birds. One thing I love is how Lo uses these plane crashes to set up not just an ominous tone for the story (what’s happening? Is the government telling us everything about these crashes? How suddenly isolated this makes us and how that creates a creeping feeling of anxiety) but a really believable one. This all feels grounded in the hyper-anxious times we live in. That, to me, is always the best place to launch speculative fiction from – the reality of now.
Adaptation follows Reese and her crush David as they make their way home after being stranded by the grounded flights and the story is propulsive from the first chapter. But the REAL story is what happen when Reese and David survive car crash and wake up in a military hospital. The military won’t tell them what happened but, as I am sure will come as no small surprise to you, Reese and David find that just as the world isn’t quite the same … neither are they.
It’s everything that makes YA great and everything that makes sci-fi great (also, it should go without saying but, just to be sure, this book is not “hard” sci-fi, so if that’s your passion, well, read Losers in Space) and it’s full of conspiracies and plot twists and, boy, is it FUN!
I would also be remiss to not mention the fact that, yes, this book isn’t just about ominous end time doom, wide-ranging government conspiracies, and teenagers caught in the middle of all of this but also about sexuality. Yes, that’s the other reason a Malindo Lo book gives me shivers of delight – when I pick up one of her books I know that there are going to be intelligent teenage characters dealing with the complexities of their sexual attraction.
And, of course, this works so amazingly well with Lo’s sci-fi universe. After the accident, Reese feels like everything about her has changed. Is she right? How right? Does that explain why she’s suddenly drawn to the enigmatic and alluring Amber or is that completely unrelated? I won’t bore you with spelling out all the metaphors and the great thing is neither does Lo. (She is FAR too talented a writer to bog such a well-crafted, well-realized story down with obviousness, preachiness).
Adaptation is a story of changes and, yes, adaptations of all kinds. THAT’S what makes it so darn readable and, for teens, so darn relatable. That one of those changes has to do with sexuality? Well, that’s just what makes this book even more fantastic, original, powerful, and needed on every library shelf.
What I’m saying to you is: Adaptation is worth all the shivers of delight.
Today is Adaptation’s release day! That means as of today, you can rush out and buy your own copy or buy a copy for your library. If you can’t buy it, go into your library and request it. If they don’t own it, request they purchase it.
AND since this post is part of the publicity for Adaptation (the second I finished the AR of this book, I contacted the publishers and begged them to let me spotlight it here because I loved it so) now YOU have a chance to win your very own copy! Little & Brown has generously provided me with a copy to give away. (Thanks, LBYR, you’re the best!) All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog no later than Tuesday, September 25 and I’ll choose one random winner.
AND Malinda Lo agreed to share her playlist for the book here on my blog. SQUEE!! IS THERE ANYTHING BETTER THAN A PLAYLIST!?! This is a super one because not only do all these songs totally match the atmosphere of the book but I even found some new favorite music.
Thanks for sharing this, Malinda! For more information about Adaptation and all of Malinda’s other writing, visit her website.
(click on this link to go directly to the awesome YouTube playlist created by Malinda featuring all of these songs. Aw yeah!)
One of my favorite things to do while working on a novel is look for music that fits a character or a particular mood. At least, this is the way I justify all the time and money I spend on iTunes! Music can give me a gut-level sense of connection to a character, and it can help me get in the proper frame of mind to write a scene. Sometimes I listen to music when writing to motivate myself, and often I listen to the playlists I create for my novels while I’m walking or driving. Because I listen to these songs repeatedly while I think about what I’m writing, I start to identify the music with the story. Then, when I’m stuck or need a nudge to get to work, listening to a particular song can actually flip the creative switch in me, enabling me to dive right into the scene I’m working on.
I created eight playlists while writing Adaptation, some very short and focusing on particular characters; others much longer and centering on mood. Out of all these playlists I’ve selected 12 tracks that represent the book to me. Whenever I hear one of these, I always think of some aspect of Adaptation. Here’s the playlist and some of my thoughts on why I chose these songs:
1. “Help I’m Alive” by Metric — This was the first song that truly connected me to the main character, Reese. What I love about this song is that the lyrics seem like a cry for help (“help I’m alive”) but the music beneath it isn’t at all weak. I like that contradiction. In the chorus, Emily Haines sings: “Hard to be soft / Tough to be tender.” The words imply that the person crying for help isn’t soft or tender; she struggles to be tender. I think this is at the heart of Reese’s character arc throughout Adaptation and its sequel.
2. “Magical World” featuring Nelly Furtado by Bassnectar — This was the first song I listened to that carried the mood of the book that I wanted to write: mysterious, futuristic, and sexy. Also: “not everything in this magical world is quite what it seems.” That is the truth!
3. “Twilight Galaxy” by Metric — To be honest, Adaptation’s theme band could be Metric. I listened to their albums Fantasies and Live It Out repeatedly while writing the book. This is one of my favorite songs from Fantasies.
4, 5. “Crash and Burn Girl” by Robyn; “Liar” by Dragonette — These two are fun, addictive pop songs about “bad” girls. That’s why some girls are “bad”: they do wrong things, but you can’t resist them. There is a girl like that in Adaptation.
6, 7, 8. “Assassinations” by Stateless; “Between Two Points” featuring Swan by The Glitch Mob; “Timestretch” by Bassnectar — All songs I listened to for mood: creepiness, depressing angst, and mysterious plot acceleration. Is “mysterious plot acceleration” a mood? It was in Adaptation!
9. “Leave My Body” by Florence + the Machine — I listened to this song on repeat while writing Chapter 36. I listened to a lot of Flo in this chapter!
10, 11. “Bluetrace” by Stateless; “How to Be Eaten By a Woman” by The Glitch Mob — I listened to a lot of electronic music while writing Adaptation, including the Stateless albums Stateless and Matilda; and every Glitch Mob track I could find. They all go under “mysterious plot acceleration.”
12. “Cosmic Love” by Florence + the Machine — I’ve always connected this song to the romance in Adaptation, but the lyrics surprised me by being completely relevant to Chapter 39.