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Today I am going to be reviewing The Disasters by M.K. England. First of all, I want to thank Harper Collins for granting me a review copy of this book. I used to be infatuated with the sci-fi genre. It was incredible to me how authors could simultaneously carry a story and make us believe we are seeing a future akin to our own. In the years following, I have come to prefer high fantasy, but that admiration for crafting futures has stuck. After reading this frankly, surprising book, I have to say that I’m much more excited about the sci-fi genre than I have been in a long time. The only reason I requested the book in the first place over others on Edelweiss was because of the snarky tagline, and I’m so glad to say I did. I see M.K. England becoming a true force in the YA genre after this solid, consistently entertaining story that revealed a deep understanding of the target teenage audience.
The exposition was quite light. England was careful to structure it so that we could jump immediately into the action with the bare amount of information needed to be engaged in the scene. It made more sense to reveal the important exposition when it becomes important, which is often true and rarely seen in the YA genre. I appreciated this effort to keep the story moving. As I will continue to mention throughout this review, this shows a clear understanding of the target teenage audience. Being a teenager, I can say that the average one of us will not be invested enough to continue with a story that has a boring, overly-expositive beginning. While a bookworm may continue, most would not hesitate to set the book down immediately.
One of my favorite things to see in a novel is smart, snarky humor, which this book had in spades. Every chapter ended with memorable 1 liners that I will not be soon to forget. I love the cocky main character with a well-equipped ensemble cast that have bonds formed on out of place humor in tough (actually inappropriate) situations. The whole idea of having that sort of cheek has become a cliche in recent years, so I would understand how it annoys people who don’t actively enjoy it. I’m well aware of how normalized it has become, yet this book is a testament to why that style caught on in the first place. It gives the story a whole other level of personality, separating it from the millions of other sci-fi novels out there.
From the first line, there was a sharp, clear narrative voice. I immediately fell in love with Nax Hall’s personality and felt like I knew him so well just form the way he described the events. With this instant connection, England was able to ensure that I would hate to abandon the book, or more importantly, the protagonist. Nax, the protagonist, sounded classically adolescent. Not like the way teenagers are made to sound in books, like an actual teenager, like the ones I encounter in my daily life. His narration was dramatic, slightly self-deprecating, and revealed insecurities from the very start, easing my transition into the unfamiliar world of the 22nd century.
The suspense England created just didn’t let up. I spent practically all of my time reading this book feeling tightly wound-up, worrying about what else could possibly hurt the characters I had come to adore. In hindsight, it shows a great degree of talent that the author was able to keep my mind on the story even when I really should have been focusing on other things. Even during down moments in the plot, I couldn’t get over the deadline the characters were under and felt my heart pounding right along with them.
I am the first person to say that when it comes to handling multiple romances, a love triangle is the absolute WORST way to do it. I hate the idea of one character being in power and running two flat love interests off of each other. It’s demeaning, irritating, and a true overload on angst. This is the first, and I believe last time I will ever say that a book had a nice play on the classic love triangle. I thought the cliche had been beaten to death and England managed to prove me wrong. The author brought out the best parts of a love triangle, the tension and doubling of swoon-worthy scenes, while leaving the idiotic pining in the grave (where it belongs).
As I have said many times, when an author chooses to have a diverse set of characters, I find it truly admirable. It takes a lot of courage to portray different cultures, religions, sexual orientations, and mental issues when there comes so much downfall with misrepresenting someone’s story. England was able to handle diversity well in that there was no distinguishing at all between characters based on what makes them fundamentally different. This author used the idea of setting the novel in the future to show us a better world in which all these differences are meaningless and that distinguishing based on them would be abnormal. It was empowering to see Islam, bisexuality, anxiety, transgender rights, women’s rights, and black and brown rights alike portrayed as completely normal. While I couldn’t specifically relate to all of those characters’ stories, I will say that the way this book handled anxiety was beautiful. It revealed the uncontrollable nature and the need for loving support to get through it. The problem affects so many teenagers in 2018 and I’m glad to see it get its due diligence in our genre.
The plot structure was quite unique. All of the moments leading up to main climax were made as important as the climax itself, making the story more like a series of mini conflicts. It worked well and contributed to the lightning-fast pacing. I enjoyed the rocky sense of always having something going terribly wrong in the background, while the overarching story continued.
There’s always a high level of risk with character development when writing a novel that features an ensemble cast, like this one. You not only have to balance a protagonist, but also several other characters who have strong bonds of friendship that are somehow born quickly after shared trauma. In order to believe something that is so often done poorly in YA novels, the backbone of the ensemble has to be strong character development. It’s the only way the reader can get to know the characters under the tight timeline, and in this book’s case, with limited exposition. England did a fantastic job creating believable relationships between characters that were slowly evolving into better versions of themselves. It was nice to finally see competent teenagers regressing back to old ways as they try to grow after being under immense pressure. And to make it even better, England made sure to play he characters off of each other to create that “team ideal” in the best possible way.
After everything England put me through while reading this book, I was astonished by how neatly things were wrapped up in the ending. Rather than feeling like the characters were forced into the perfect places, it felt like it all came naturally to a close. This story in those characters’ lives is over, and there may be another one, but for now, that’s enough. I’m left with a sort of bubbly excitement about the next book (if there will be another one) and a deep satisfaction if this is the end.
It’s been a while since I have seen the true refreshing potential of the YA genre. I have definitely enjoyed other YA books in the way that you would with an author you already idolize, however none of those books have had the humorous, witty style I crave. That’s why this book deserves 4.5 stars. It was cleansing in terms of everything else I have been reading recently and I anticipate picking up more from this author. What honestly prevented me from giving the full 5 stars was a certain overall repetition that made the novel drag at times.
Thank you for reading my review and I hope you will join me again as we go off to amazing places.