Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: DANGEROUS by Shannon Hale

Posted By on March 10, 2014, 1:23 PM

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Maybe it shouldn’t matter than Shannon Hale’s new novel is a young-adult super-hero adventure whose protagonist is female. And non-white. And disabled. And how lovely it would be to live in a world of faeries and unicorns where stories in this genre that were not focused around white boys proliferated in abundance. ---

We’re not in that world, though, and there’s no question that Dangerous gains an added pop from a protagonist who’s coming at life-or-death scenarios from a unique perspective: the kind of person whose self-talk might always be that she can’t be the hero. There’s a dose of Fantastic Four to the set-up that finds 16-year-old Maisie Danger Brown—half-Latina, and missing her right arm as a result of in utero issues—attending a space camp, and along with four other adolescents, gaining strange abilities when they make contact with an alien technology housed at an asteroid-based space station. And yes, those abilities may be needed to save the world.

Hale packs Dangerous full of plotting: a romantic triangle, constantly shifting allegiances, extra-terrestrial invasion, life-threatening battles and an impressive amount of time devoted to the physiology of her protagonists’ super-powers, making them remarkably convincing and just as tactile as the pain they experience. Indeed, it’s almost too densely packed, spinning Maisie through so many shifts in her situation and whom she thinks she can trust that it’s not always easy to keep up with where her head is at any given moment.

Yet Dangerous avoids getting too bogged down in its plot by delivering regular high-energy action beats, and by providing vivid characterizations, including the space-camp’s genius operator whose fascinating brand of self-interest makes her too slippery to peg as ally or adversary for Maisie. Meanwhile, Maisie herself anchors the story with an appealing mix of simple adolescent insecurity, smarts, and determination. It’s thrilling to find a satisfying page-turner of this kind at all, let alone one that risks giving a heroic voice to someone who doesn’t look like any other hero you’re likely to find.

Shannon Hale signs and reads from Dangerous at a special event Tuesday, March 11, 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake County Viridian Events Center, 8030 S. 1825 West, West Jordan.

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