12) Dangerous

By: Shannon Hale

Date Finished: 04.06.14

by Shannon Hale

My parents have to work really hard to be funny.  They’re scientists.

Humming the Star Wars theme to encourage myself, I wobbled onto my feet.  Sometimes a girl’s gotta provide her own trumpet-heavy soundtrack.

Falling in love and falling to your death feel about the same, I thought.  And I almost laughed.

Maisie Danger Brown really hasn’t faced much danger in her life.  She didn’t go looking for trouble either — she was just interested in space.  When she saw a sweepstakes for an youth astronaut training camp, well, what would be the harm in entering?  Unexpectedly, Maisie does win, but at the conclusion of the perfect three weeks, she becomes infected with a superpower and things take a turn for the dangerous.

I know, there’s a lot of Shannon Hale love on this blog already, but this one’s new and it’s sci fi, how could I resist?  In truth, the book doesn’t sound like her much at all.  Which is brilliant.  Dangerous is a completely different genre than her other books and deserves the unique voice and style.  And, as I hoped, Maisie Danger Brown is a delightful heroine who stole my heart and who I definitely want by my side if faced with an apocalypse.

This book truly has it all.  And I don’t mean anything trite or cliche by that statement — Hale did a stellar job of blending story elements that don’t always mesh together.  It’s sci fi, so there’s a lot of talk about science and technology.  It’s about a superhero, so there’s an origin story, nemeses (nemesi? maybe?), action sequences, and moral dilemmas.  But as science-oriented as these characters may be, they know poetry, Greek mythology, Shakespeare, music — that is, they have interests outside of that one THING THAT THEY DO.  (How many people are defined by a singular interest?  How many characters, especially secondary characters?)  Not only that, but Maisie’s family — a father AND a mother — are present for much of the book and help drive the plot.  Not only that, but there is romance an interesting and realistic romance woven through.  Oh, and did I mention it’s not futuristic?  The whole thing is more or less present day.

My sister said she read it twice in a row.  I understand the impulse and nearly succumbed to it myself.  The story is so delicious that it’s hard to let go, plus there’s so much detail underlying the main story that it’s impossible to catch everything on a first read (the mark of an excellent book).  The funny thing is, at 400 pages even, it’s kind of long for a YA, but I wanted more.  I didn’t need more, but I sure wanted to linger.  Even if that meant flipping back to the first page and starting over.

In an uncharacteristic move, I read another blogger’s review (posted here) before writing my own.  For the most part, she said what I was already thinking, but she did bring up something I hadn’t thought of — the book is broken into three sections that could have been a trilogy under other circumstances.  The first is the origin story: how Maisie became special and was called into action.  The second is the survival story: how Maisie stayed out of immediate danger and planned for the future.  The third is the final stand: how Maisie came out of hiding to save the world and/or die trying.  In this culture of trilogies, I appreciate the care Hale took to streamline the story into a single book.  Yes, a trilogy would have been quite good because it’s Shannon Hale and because it’s a strong story, but it wouldn’t have been Dangerous.  She covered loads of ground in one book — over a year’s worth of time — but it flows elegantly, moves at a thrilling pace, and makes you invest in the characters even more.

This is a true gem of a book which raises the bar of all literature.  The gauntlet is down all you subsequent books because this is what quality writing looks like.

At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me.

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