Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Perfection by J. L. Spelbring

Title: Perfection
Author: J. L. Spelbring
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Target Age Group: YA
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Book Jacket Blurb:

The personification of Aryan purity, Ellyssa's spent her whole life under her creator's strict training and guidance; her purpose is to eradicate inferior beings. She was genetically engineered to be the perfect soldier: strong, intelligent, unemotional, and telepathic.

Only Ellyssa isn't perfect.

Ellyssa feels emotions--a fact she's spent her life concealing. Until she encounters the epitome of inferiority: a dark-haired boy raised among renegades hiding since the Nazis won the war a century ago. He speaks to her telepathically, pushing thoughts into her mind, despite the impossibility of such a substandard person having psychic abilities.

But he does.

His unspoken words and visions of a place she's never visited make Ellyssa question her creator. Confused and afraid her secret will be discovered, Ellyssa runs away, embarking on a journey where she discovers there is more to her than perfection.

My Review:

I cannot say enough good things about this book. This one blew me away in terms of the characters, the setting, and also the eerie believability of the events portrayed in this book, as fantastic as they are.

It's hard to put a classification on this one.

1. It's part historical fantasy. It envisions a world where Hitler succeeded in his horrible plan of world domination and selective purging of the population.
2. It's part science fiction. It deals with topics of genetic selection and development of telepathic and other superhuman traits.
3. It's part fantasy. If you don't believe in superhuman abilities as natural, this could be categorized as fantasy. Also, the series seems like it could go in an almost superhero kind of direction. For those who HAVE read the book, you might understand what I'm getting at here. It's very apparent to me at the end.

From the very beginning of the book, Ellyssa's conflict is very clear. Everything she knows about her world (which is very twisted mind you due to her "father"'s world views having been pushed upon her) collapses when she meets a prisoner - someone who is not among the "perfect race" - who has the same telepathic ability as she does. This, along with learning the true nature of what she was created for, causes her to question her father and everything about the bubble she lives in. So she escapes the compound where she has lived her entire life.

The book hits the ground running at this point, only providing the background above as necessary. I love the action at the beginning of this story. Ellyssa is on the run, running away from the people who raised her and running toward some understanding of the conflicting views she has. I love her interaction with the world outside, especially the people. I love how the people are portrayed as ordinary people, who are twisted by the morals put upon them by Hitler's regime, but still ordinary people just the same. It shows the effects of propaganda and faulty values in upbringing very well through the storytelling.

The book then enters another stage, where the action almost slows to a crawl, but this is where Ellyssa's emotional conflicts begin. When captured by the renegades, the people she has always associated with inferiority and as the enemies, she realizes these people are no different than the "perfect race" her creator has been teaching her about. She becomes herself in this stage of the book, and I think it's executed brilliantly.

Here, unfortunately, is where I have to dock a few points from my scale, because I find this section is very similar to the middle of the book The Host, by Stephenie Meyer. Seeing as though I also enjoyed that book, I can't take TOO many points off though. And, the outcome of this section is very different in this book than it was in The Host, because whereas Melanie Stryder in The Host took a more passive approach to solving her problem, befitting of her character, Ellyssa takes a more active, kick-butt approach in J. L. Spelbring's book, which is befitting of HER character. Because once Ellyssa's discovers herself, she brings her knowledge and wisdom back to her father to deal with him. I won't say how the book ends, but the ending is very, very action packed and a cool setup for what I'm hoping will be a sequel to this book.

The only other place I would say is a bit of a disappointment is with the character development for the detective who is in charge of hunting her down and bringing her back home throughout the book. I was kinda hoping for some redeeming quality for this character, and it ALMOST seemed like that would happen, but it never came to fruition. Unlike the same type of character in The Host, who at the end you can almost feel sorry for her.

Finally, there is the romance element between Ellyssa and Rein. The two are from very different backgrounds. They learn about each other and move toward the center regarding their understanding of each other as the story progresses. I felt their connection was a little too strong by the end, however, given all they had to overcome. But other than that, I felt the romance was done very well. It's a bit of a Romeo and Juliet, with a much happier ending, at least for Ellyssa and Rein.

The book has definitely been left open for a sequel, which I will wait for impatiently.

I would highly recommend this book.