Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.
Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.
Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.
Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.
So, I love Malinda Lo. She’s smart and funny and nice, and when I met her at ALA, she was so cute and nervous. Her books Ash and Huntress were my first introduction to LGBT YA, and she just does it perfectly. Lo also goes out of her way to include POC in her novels, which is something else that is sorely lacking in the YA genre these days. Reese is a little bit of a nerd. She’s on the debate team, she’s never kissed a boy (or a girl), and she’s cute and awkward around her crush, David Li. When they lose semifinals, Reese is pretty distraught, both because she blames herself for their loss and because the loss made her look stupid in front of David. She’s wallowing at the airport when the bird reports begin rolling in. Flights are grounded and the populace has had a curfew imposed upon it, and things are pretty nuts. There are carjackers around and things get violent quickly. David and Reese see someone close to them killed in front of their eyes. So when Reese crashes in the desert, it’s no wonder. Those two were extremely stressed out. When she comes to, she’s in a top secret facility, treated with top secret, incredibly advanced technology. Her skin starts regenerating, and her scars disappear. David is the same. Freaky things are happening.
And then Reese meets Amber and is completely taken with her. There’s a lot of Reese thinking about Amber’s lips, her lip gloss, their kissing, etc. It’s just like a YA romance novel, only with two girls. Reese is very confused by what her attraction to Amber means for Reese’s sexuality. Amber is very forward and bold, and I liked her a lot. She’s just what gloomy old Reese needs, in my opinion. The makeout scenes were really hot, and I loved how confused Reese was, because it was so realistic. She wonders if she’s a lesbian, she wonders why her friend’s curves have never made her feel this way. She’s only liked David, from what I gather, so her sudden attraction to Amber throws her off. So not only is Reese freaking out about her new sexual urges, she’s also freaked out by not only the nature of the nondisclosure agreement she signed (which says she can be imprisoned or executed for speaking up), but also the fact that she and David seem to have been patched up in Area 51. There was some cool stuff about Project Aquarius in this part, and I was in my element. My boyfriend is a conspiracy theorist, and I am not, but I do enjoy alien stories. I could even be convinced they’re real, if given enough time and evidence. Reese is apparently the same way.
My main gripe with this one is that for the first half or so of the story, I didn’t like Reese. She was bland and boring, with very little personality outside of social awkwardness. She’s not good at anything. She doesn’t seem to have any interests other than debate team. I found myself really impatient with her naivete. I understand this is a personal problem and not something Lo did wrong. As I get older, I find myself more and more impatient with what I consider teenager problems. Which is why I don’t let it lower my rating of novels when it happens. I keep it in check. It also takes forever to get to anything resembling the plot. We have some exciting scenes in the beginning but after that, it stagnates a little. There’s a lot of Reese and Amber, and Reese not understanding how her body works. They don’t really even go digging until the novel’s half over. It feels a little bit like a self-discovery novel about Reese’s sexuality for a lot of the book. Which is fine and great, even, but I expected more sci-fi, not a somewhat out-of-the-blue (and thereby suspicious) romance with Amber. Amber, in fact, had more personality than anyone else in the book combined, in my opinion. The person I loved the most, though, was Julian. He’s gay, sure, but he’s also a skeptic, and the things he said made me so happy. For example:
“I’m not saying that every elected official is a liar, but the United States government does plenty of stuff without telling us about it.”
“Like what?” David asked.
“Oh God, don’t get him started,” Reese warned.
“Like the NSA,” Julian said. “Dreamland. Project Blue Book. Depending on how deep into conspiracy you are, the Kennedy assassination and the moon landing. Not to mention all the crap that gets uncovered that the government has to apologize for later. The Tuskegee experiment. Abu Ghraib. We don’t know shit about what our government is doing.”
“You believe all that?” David asked.
“No,” Julian said. “I think the moon-landing conspiracy is total bullshit, for one thing. But I don’t believe everything the government tells us is the truth either.”
Julian. Be my gay husband. Please.
Around about the two-thirds mark, things start getting interesting, both in Reese’s relationship and the overall plot. I found myself getting really into it and unable to stop reading. There are literally no answers for basically three-quarters of the novel, so just prepare yourself to know more than the protag by the time the Big Reveal happens. So I had a few misgivings, but I got my hands on an ARC of Inheritance at ALA, so I will for sure be reading and reviewing the next one. And I’m actually excited to see where Reese and David travel.