Project ELE by Rebecca Gober and Courtney Nuckels

Project ELE tells about a time when a virus has wiped out a large number of the population and the Earth’s temperature is rising to uninhabitable temperatures. Fifteen-year-old Willow Mosby must leave her life (and much of her family) behind and go into a F.E.M.A. shelter to survive. What she finds there are friends, love, amazing new abilities, and unexpected danger.

I was surprisingly disappointed by this book, which is the first in a series. There is a lot of promise in the idea (as someone who likes dystopian novels and stories about people with “powers”), but the execution was lacking:

– The story is told from Willow’s perspective. I tend to find first person narratives difficult in the best of times (the characters are too in their own heads and they tend to whine a bit too much), but here it was particularly problematic because Willow is perfectly bland. She’s a sweet girl with no real defining traits. Reading the story from her perspective didn’t make me feel closer to the action and it didn’t add to the experience. She didn’t have unique insights (by contrast, Cia from The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau had unique observations about the people around her and what their behavior might indicate, which was why I found it so enjoyable) and her thought process was never clear enough for me to relate to why she did some of the things she did.

– Considering that half of Willow’s family will likely die while she is in the relative safety of the shelter, she does not think about these family members very often. I could believe this more in a third person narrative where we don’t have the character’s inner thoughts and don’t know what she is thinking at all times, but with first person, we should see her thoughts occasionally drift in their direction every so often, even if she pushes them away and doesn’t want to dwell on it.

– It takes too long to get to the point in the story where Willow and her friends discover amazing new abilities. It feels like we spend 2/3 of the book in a standard dystopian novel and then suddenly we are in a superhero story. The shift is disorienting. The special abilities elements needed to be integrated into the story earlier (even with hints and clues) and some of the details before that could have been shortened or cut out to make the story feel more cohesive.

It is very rare for me not to want to finisha book, if only because I like to know what happened, but in this case, I don’t intend to pick up book 2.

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