Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon

Title: Strangelets
Author: Michelle Gagnon
Publisher: Soho Teen
Released: April 9th 2013
Pages: 280 (eBook)
Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US
Add on Goodreads

17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer…
17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland…
17-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt…

All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving. 

Soon they discover that they've been trapped in a future that isn't of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbors a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light Sophie, Declan, Anat, and the rest must decide what to do with a second chance at life—if they can survive to claim it.

Concept? Great. Everything else? Bad. I really wanted to like this novel, as it seemed like something fresh and innovative; something that would spark the imagination and leave you reeling for more at the end. Sadly, the only thing I felt at the end was disappointed. Anticlimax of the century.

Six teens on the brink of death find themselves locked in what looks like a hospital in Long Island - except none of them died there, or even remotely nearby. Grouping together and breaking out, the teens find the world far different from the state they left it in. Everything is broken and coated in a layer of dust, and terrifying creatures are roaming the land. Desperately trying to uncover what is going on, the group will go through hurt, confusion, betrayal, and will end up not just question where they are, but when they are.

Eight percent in, and there was racism. There was an Indian guy, and the author referred to him as 'the Paki'. Now I didn't know whether this was used on purpose as a mould for the character, used to make a point about racism (like in To Kill A Mockingbird), used out of the author's pure obliviousness, or because the author is racist. It became obvious after a while that the character whose POV it was used in wasn't racist, so I'm really hoping that the third option is the true one - and if so, it needs to be edited out, because it is rude and sets a bad mood for the novel. By this point, Strangelets had already lost a star or two. *

The writing wasn't the worst I've come across by far, but it wasn't anything special. Characterisation fell a bit flat - it was good in the sense that they all had background and a fairly believable lifestyle, but they didn't seem much more than 2D. They were purely fictional to me, and I love it when you can believe a character is real.

Although there were six main characters, only three of them were the protagonists - two too many, if you ask me. All of them were very dull, and I didn't warm to them at all. Sophie was quite pathetic - your typical damsel in distress who was very dramatic and whiny. The only other person who got on my nerves was Anat, who was an uptight witch-with-a-B. She. Was. So. Horrible. To everyone! And Declan was just a typical lads-lad - clearly meant to be some kind of heartthrob, but came out more as the annoying kid brother.

The entire concept for the book was good initially - however, the delivery was very poor, and the ending was completely anticlimactic. The action began to build up, the characters actually seemed to be getting somewhere - and BAM! everything turns bad, sudden light at the end of the tunnel, everything is dandy again (kind of). It was like a steep climb up a roller-coaster, only to find that on the other side was small dip back down. It left me feeling wholly unsatisfied.

Overall, I am really disappointed. I had incredibly high hopes for this book after reading some pretty decent reviews, but it was just a bit dead. That, combined with poor characterisation and racism made me strongly dislike this novel, hence the rating. If you're intrigued, go ahead and read it by all means - but I wouldn't recommend it.
Rating: 2/5

*After a talk with the author, she assured me that the racism was used on purpose to reflect the behaviour of the character *wipes sweat off forehead* Phew!


  1. I'm so sorry to hear you felt that way about Strangelets. I rarely respond to reviews, but did feel that your query about racism needed to be addressed.
    The particular instance you referred to was a conscious decision on my part, and stemmed out of the casual racism I witnessed among local teens during my time in Ireland (I have dual citizenship, and have spent a fair amount of time there).
    No, Declan would never consider himself to be a racist; however, he and his friends would also not blink at referring to anyone with brown skin as a "Paki," out of simple ignorance of how insulting that is.

    I would caution you against ever assuming that an author is racist based on what their characters say. Dialogue is specifically meant to convey what the character thinks and feels; no more, no less.

    Michelle Gagnon

    1. I found it difficult to believe that an author was racist, but I am glad to have this cleared up, nevertheless. As someone who is unfamiliar with Irish behaviour and customs, the language was used too sporadically for me to make a connection between the writing and character-building, hence the confusion.

      Thank you for taking the time to reply to this review - I think I just heaved a massive sigh of relief, as you never appeared to be the kind of author who would do it out of ignorance, or because that is what you believe. So thank you for taking time out to address this, and I will put an edit in the review :)

  2. Of course, and thanks! I completely understand, I've had the same question myself sometimes (there are some books that really seem to go over the top with it, I hope I exercised enough restraint!)
    And as an aside, even if you felt this way about Strangelets, I'd ask that you give my PERSEFONE trilogy a chance (starting with Don't Turn Around). There were some editorial issues with Strangelets (I had to cut about a quarter of the book before publication), and I'm honestly far more satisfied with the trilogy.


    1. Of course! I'll add that to my TBR list right away, and will try to get my hands on it as soon as possible!