Series: Xenofreak Nation
Author: Melissa Conway
Genre: YA dystopian
Twenty years into the future, bioengineered animals provide organs for human transplantation. Grafts of animal skin have replaced tattoos in popularity, which gives rise to a unique new demographic: xenofreaks.
Meet our heroes: Bryn Vega and Scott Harding. Bryn is the sheltered daughter of the head of the Pure Human Society, a small but fanatical purist group that wants to outlaw xenoalteration. Scott Harding is a xenofreak also known as Cougar, a member of the xenofreak gang, XBestia. When Bryn is kidnapped by the Bestia Butcher and given an extreme xenoalteration against her will, her world changes dramatically. The series follows Bryn as she adjusts to her xenoalteration and gets a front row seat for the social and political changes the world is going through with the advent of xenofreaks and all of its potential repercussions.
So, I did a review for a stand alone novel by Melissa Conway earlier this week that made me wonder if the second book of Xenofreak Nation, which introduced me to the author, was out yet. Upon realizing it was, I immediately got my copy and charged through it. But when I sat down to write this review, I wasn't quite sure how to do it. For one, it's the second book of a series, which is kind of weird as a first review for the series (at least while writing for the blog). Secondly, because I don't like to include summaries in my reviews, I didn't really know what to say that I hadn't already said in my review for the first book. Yet at two books, it doesn't really qualify for a Series Sunday, does it?
So, I'm taking a middle road and reviewing the series, because if everyone should read this. Period. And because I can't think of a better way to say it, here's what I said in my review of XBestia, the first Xenofreak Nation book:
"When I read the premise of Xenofreak Nation, I thought, 'huh, that's interesting.' What I didn't expect was to be drawn, almost instantaneously, into a well-developed world that is believably what we could be in the near future. The characters are dense, multifaceted, all individuals who make you feel as though they could each have their own books written about them. And the centerpiece of this cast is a keystone. Sheltered, but neither stupid nor spineless, Bryn is the backbone of the story. Her growth, her understanding of the world around her, that the people in it are all people, and her acceptance of her own mutilation are masterfully done.
But although the plot is fantastic, the characters engaging, the premise original, the most subtle and crucial bit that makes this book a true 5-star is Conway's writing. She gives hints, she shows, she alludes to, then delivers later with explanations. But she doesn't bog you down, just offers moments of clarification and certainty amid an environment where so much is guarded and uncertain. Her writing made me think about her book, her characters and her world when I couldn't read, and helped me re-immerse immediately each time I picked it back up. Conway delivers little bits that are subtle, but stayed with me."
And everything I said in my first review holds true for the second installment. I'm a little less satisfied with the end because, unlike XBestia, which is entirely self-contained, Mad Eye has an unresolved plot line which will obviously be continued in the next book due out in Summer 2013. But what this really means is that I just wanted more. Her characters are still awesome, I want more. I care about Bryn, like her and admire her inner strength. I'm curious about what may or may not come of the attraction between her and Scott... there's just so much in this world that only has a paltry two books to its claim thus far. The sense of scope, the breadth and depth of the world this series is set in is a little mind-boggling for me (in a good way).
And if the facts that the characters are phenomenally developed, the world massive and well-conceived, the idea original, and the plots intricate weren't enough for you, there's the added bonus that Conway is just a really good writer. While reading her books, I have instances where I read something, pause, am struck by it, then read it again. Then I sit back and go "wow, she can write." She has a knack for giving you just the right amount of detail, phrasing things exactly right that really blew me away, taking a story that has everything going for it to another level.
Go, read this series. You will not regret it.
A Toast to a Story Better than the One Before...