Thursday, February 09, 2017

Intriguing Premise Falls Flat in Debut Sci Fi-Ish Teen Drama

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With her best—and only—friend off on an exciting foreign exchange student adventure, Tara Krishman is starting her junior year alone.  As the only person of color (Tara's dad is Indian, her mom Caucasian) in her posh Connecticut high school, she already feels out-of-place.  Without her BFF by her side, Tara knows it's going to be a long, lonely year.

Then, something incredible happens: a new planet is discovered.  Terra Nova seems to mirror Earth, even down to individual people.  Tara can't help but imagine another Tara in an alternate world.  Is Other Tara friendless or popular?  Shy or bold?  Scared or courageous?  

Weirdly, a small shift has occurred in Tara's real world.  When she receives an unexpected invitation to a party at the home of a super popular girl, Tara's thrown into the "it" crowd.  Suddenly, relationships she's only dreamed of are becoming real.  At the same time, things at home are changing.  Obsessed with Terra Nova, Tara's mom runs off to join a doomsday cult.  Her dad can't cope; neither can Tara, not really.  How can her life be going so wrong at the same time it's finally going so right?  How will these events, both cosmic and domestic, alter the course of Tara's life?  What will they teach her about family, friendship, and who she is as a person?

I grabbed Mirror in the Sky, a debut novel by Aditi Khorana, off the shelf because it had been voted a teen favorite by patrons of my local library.  The premise sounded interesting, so I decided to give the book a shot.  And?  Well, it was interesting, just not quite as interesting as I wanted it to be or interesting in the way I wanted it to be, if that makes sense.  Although the story sounds very sci-fi, it's not.  At its heart, Mirror in the Sky is a story about an ordinary teen girl trying to navigate her way through what is fast becoming an extraordinary year.  It's a blend of family conflict, friend drama, and awkward teen romance.  Terra Nova exists in the story only as a tool for reflection.  Bummer, that, because I found the mirror planet to be the most intriguing aspect of the novel's plot.  Tara and her friends just aren't that engaging—almost to a one, they are selfish, whiny, negative, petty, melodramatic, etc.  Also, unrealistic.  What teens have this much freedom (where are their parents?)  and vocabularies that allow them to toss around words like heteronormative and matrilineal in casual conversation?  Anyway, for me, the most compelling aspects of the novel remained the least developed.  In the end, then, Mirror in the Sky left me feeling unsatisfied.  It may be a teen favorite, but it didn't do a whole lot for me ...

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

6 comments:

  1. What?! Why even write a book about a mirror planet if it's not going to have anything to do with the story? Sounds very disappointing.

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    1. Right? I think it's more of a symbol to make subtle statements about falsity vs. truth, but I wanted it to be more than that. It's such an intriguing idea - why not flesh it out?

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  2. Too bad the sci-fi aspect didn't come through for you. When you mentioned vocabulary, I thought of John Green's books whose teens speak like that.

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    1. I've only read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and I don't remember the vocab aspect. In this book, though, it just seemed false, especially in combination with other traits that made these teens seem very inauthentic.

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  3. The premise of this book reminds me a little of that movie Another Earth; only the movie had much less teen drama in it.

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    1. The blurb for MIRROR IN THE SKY on Barnes & Noble compared it to ANOTHER EARTH. I'd never heard of the movie -- thought they were talking about a book. Ha ha. Mystery solved. I'll have to check out the movie. Sounds like THAT story goes more in the direction I wanted THIS one to go!

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