The Evaporation of Sofi Snow – Review

“How quickly humans could turn on each other when fed suspicion. Like smoke tossed out as solid evidence, whispered into the frightened ears of those needing someone to blame in order to feel safe again.”

Sofi Snow is a gamer. Working as part of a team of gamers to help her Corporation fight for blood and glory in the FanFight Games, a sport combining virtual gaming with real life. In a world where the corporations took over in the place of governments world wide, playing in these games means a chance at freedom. A chance at life.

“The Fantasy Fighting Games had been the result of Earth’s unquenchable thirst for virtual fun, violent sports, and citizen-elected superstars.”

When a bomb explodes, killing her brother Shilo and nearly her entire gaming team, Sofi wakes up to a world she doesn’t recognize. A world where corporate espionage and power plays are working at things she doesn’t understand. But her life is at risk, and although all evidence shows her brother is dead, Sofi knows he’s alive.

Risking everything, she turns to a man she should hate to take her to the alien planet hovering just beyond our moon. Even though these aliens saved the planet, giving humanity life saving technology and working to establish diplomatic peace, Sofi can’t ignore feeling that her brother has been taken to their planet. Following her gut, she convinces Miguel help her get to the planet’s secretive surface.

“Miguel snorted and continued to study their faces as he sketched. A habit developed years ago by way of analyzing them. “You study them,” his father once told him, “if you want to work with them.”

Miguel enjoys high levels of freedom and privilege as an Ambassador to the Delonese. It isn’t just his reputation that he risks in helping Sofi. He’s also being blackmailed to help the ensure blame for the bombing lands on a certain Corporation.

Both Miguel and Sofi will need to decide who to trust and whether they can trust each other, regardless of their history together. The consequences of their decisions could be much higher than either of them realized.

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow is YA intended for the teenage reader. While adults can read, enjoy and appreciate the story, I found that this is a book written for her target audience. So while it was a fun read, and went by really fast, it was difficult for me to get lost in.

I also did not know going in that this is published under the umbrella of Christian fiction. While I didn’t find any religious undertones, I did notice that things like swearing was weird. Instead of making up swearing like many futuristic dystopians tend to do, or eliminate it all together, Weber chose to use words like gad, dangit, and heck. This felt like another example of aiming towards a very young teenage audience, but it pulled me out of the story. It felt unnecessary, and the sentences they were used in could have easily been rewritten to not allude to swearing at all, and been stronger for it.

In contrast, characters would use dialogue like ‘WTF’ and talk about how promiscuous Sofi is, which felt odd to me as well. If we can’t even say damn, why are we talking about her sleeping around? It made the non-swearing feel disingenuous, and again, in my opinion, the story would have been better had it been left out entirely. I also didn’t really understand why the promiscuity was raised at all since it didn’t fit with Sofi’s character or seem to serve a plot purpose.

All that said, I do think that this would be a fantastic book if you have teenagers at home. There are a lot of great topics to discuss wrapped in the plot like global warming, the role of corporations in our government, the use of power both in corporations and government, the advancement of technology, the potential of virtual reality, privacy, and even being able to use the idea of aliens to bring up feeling left out, different, or how to view people/cultures who are different from us. This book brings up a lot of those topics and could be used as a fantastic launching point for future discussions.

Overall, this book is a fun idea, and has enough mystery written into the plot to keep me going. I do need to find out what the deal with these aliens is. But, I do wish I had known it was intended for a younger audience, I could have adjusted my reading expectations accordingly.

We All Fall Down – Review

“I stay in the car because I’m not welcome at the door.”

From the very first sentence we see the tension built into the backstory of this YA thriller. Theo and Paige have been friends forever. Paige battles anxiety and Theo battles ODD, ADHD and a number of other disorders. Together they can face anything.

Except Paige’s parents think Theo is a negative influence. Except Paige has had a crush on Theo forever, and has decided to leave the unrequited feelings in the past. Except, they aren’t unrequited.

“Paige checks her phone and teeters in her pretty sandals, and my mind is popping and buzzing, but there’s not a thing I can do. I’ve had all the time in the world. If she likes this guy, I need to suck it up and deal.”

Theo doesn’t deal with things though. He gets drunk. The party is at an old bridge, and Paige is pushed to climb the bridge by her date. When she starts to have an anxiety attack, Theo is too drunk to help. Instead he gets in a fight. But when he hauls his fist to take a swing, it isn’t her date’s face his fist collides with. It’s Paige.

Talk about an explosive opening act.

When we meet Theo and Paige again, several months have gone by. Theo is back near the scene of the crime, so to speak, working for his Uncle, trying a new assortment of meds and living in a pit of regret. Paige is attending a summer Science program on the opposite side of the bridge for college credit. She is working on forgetting Theo, accepting that he is bad news like her parents told her all along.

They both want to forget. They both want to move on. But something keeps bringing them together. Something keeps reminding them of the one night they both want to forget. Something won’t let them move on.

The representation of mental health issues in teens is phenomenal in this book. It isn’t just how accurate and relatable Richards makes Paige and Theo. It’s the details. How Paige’s parents are typical helicopter parents, constantly hovering and interfering. How Theo’s have simply written him off as too much trouble and too much work. Both are very real reactions from parents when dealing with adolescents who struggle with disorders.

Even though we don’t see a lot of Paige’s parents, their influence is felt throughout the entire thing. I think this is also very accurate and was well done. Whether it’s the over involvement or the complete disappearance, these reactions shape both Theo and Paige and how they react to various situations. It is also extremely well written because it is these small details that build the tension and suspense within Paige.

“Alarms flare in my mind. I shouldn’t have said his name. Shouldn’t have talked about his at all. What if she says something to my parents when they pick me up?”

As far as Theo goes, we see very little even in the background of his parents. Rather it is his Uncle Denny who is his main parental figure for the summer. Denny has a construction business and is letting Theo live with him and work, to keep him out of trouble. Denny is actually a decent Uncle. He tries, but is clearly in over his head with Theo. He doesn’t even know where to begin. But you can tell he cares, and Theo cares about what he thinks as well.

“He nods slowly, still ruminating whatever armchair-therapist crap he was about to spit out. He must think better of it, because he adjust his cap on his thinning hair and sighs.”

But no matter how many meds Theo forces his therapist to prescribe or how many times he promises to stay away from Paige, some force seems to be pulling them together. Whether it’s mysterious noises drawing them to the bridge, or remnants from the party long thought discarded mysteriously appearing; something is happening. And it always leads back to the bridge.

This part of the novel was especially enjoyable for me because I think bridges are creepy in general. Yes, they are beautiful from a distance. And romantic. And historical. But really. Driving a car over something that could collapse at any moment is terrifying to me. So I completely get the anxiety and trauma associated with this bridge. Throw in some weird supernatural nonsense. I would be out of there super fast!

But what I really enjoyed was how Richards was able to weave the supernatural in to play against both Theo and Paige’s natural dispositions. If you constantly question everything, how do you know when you’re being haunted or going crazy? It’s a fine line, and the suspense both of them felt at legitimately not knowing the answer was brilliant.

“The arsenic is there because rivers are full of icky things. And because no matter how deep you bury them, they find their way to the surface.”

This is excellent YA suspense. It deals with relevant issues and, perhaps, gives a new light and perspective on how kids dealing with those issues feel. It also is a bloody good haunting novel. Whether real or imagined, the ghosts we believe to be real will always be as powerful as we allow them to be. I absolutely loved how this was handled, and explored and ultimately, how this story ended.

I won this book in a giveaway from Teen Reads and am thrilled I was able to read it!