Five plus stars! Set in a grim near future, this is an epic saga of the beginning and end of earth. It has a wonderful way of pulling you into the drama of the Lark family and their friends' survival story.
The book is filled with well-rounded characters who have to battle good and evil, loyalty and betrayal in a high stakes game of survival.
When an asteroid threatens to wipe out earth, salvation comes in the force of an unlikely visit by surprise visitors to earth. But, there's a catch. The visitors can save some people, but not all. In order to secure a place, you have to "qualify or die."
Who the visitors are and whether they can be trusted or not raised a lot of questions for me. Are they ancient long lost cousins? Are they good? Is this some kind of elaborate game? I second guessed their intentions and agendas all the way through.
The main character of this story is Gwen Lark. It's first person narrated and the author does a wonderful job of making the reader believe in this fifteen year old girl. You're right with her when she has to make life and death decisions, be tested, and then compete in this bizarre, twisted Darwinian game.
Reading this was a catharsis for me. I cried. I laughed. The characters struggle to be normal teenagers, and protect their friends, but still fight against all the odds to be chosen, in the worst of circumstances.
I appreciate that the author addressed bullying and the pecking order of high school. She also has a very real concept of how people react to bad news and a wonderful way of making the earth's saviors seem God-like and human at the same time.
The theme of honor and perseverance intertwined with strong female role models and surprising plot twists that kept this reader wondering what each person's place would be and who had hidden and not so hidden agendas. I found myself not wanting to put the book down. I needed to know what would happen next.
This book also involves music theory, science and ancient cultural studies. The author really did her homework down to the smallest details.
It is a great book for a young reader, but be warned there is strong emotional concepts and violent scenarios in the book. It seems to be on an eighth grade reading level, but it held my interest as an adult because of the human drama, mystery and action packed story line. I would highly recommend it to a mature reader who liked such books as the Hunger Games.
The book does end with some big loose ends to tie up. I have to say I have already began reading book two and I plan to read any more to come.