Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Gravity by Melissa West

“President Cartier is the smallest of the five, so petite she looks almost like a child in an adult’s chair. Her brown hair curls in perfect waves, just like Lawrence’s. Her olive skin shows her age, creasing in fine lines across her face, the heaviest lines around her eyes. To her right sits Alaster Krane, the European president, known for his stunning height and overpowering attitude. His skin and eyes and hair are as black as the night sky. Down the table to President Cartier’s left are the African and Asian presidents. The African president is the only other female, and her skin is as fair as mine, but while I have nearly black hair, hers is fiery red. The Asian leader sits quietly. He’s always quiet, as though he prefers to think more than speak, a quality I wish some of the other leaders would possess. His looks are perfectly symmetrical, and I imagine he was very beautiful when he was young.


Then my eyes drift to Zeus, my breath catching. He stares into the screen, ominous and powerful, like he knows so much more than any of the others. I’ve never met him, and I pray I never will. I study him as though I’m seeing him for the first time. Long white hair that must reach the center of his back. Eyes like a predator. He looks human, like Jackson and the other Latent Ancients, but now that I’m looking at him closely I realize that nothing about him is warm. From his expression, to his face, to his posture. Everything about Zeus oozes danger. I clear my throat to push back my fear.
They begin with the regular stuff—the laws of the treaty, discussion of amendments (there never are any), and a reminder of our responsibilities as humans. I almost scream for them to get to the attack. Law looks as tense as I feel.

Finally, President Cartier focuses on the main camera, her face solemn. “Today, there were four attacks across the world, one in each of the four governing territories. We believe the actions were that of a vigilante Ancient group. They have all been apprehended, returning our world to safe order.” She turns to Zeus. “Mr. Castello, to your knowledge, can you guarantee there are no other threatening groups, and furthermore, do you agree to maintain our peaceful separation until coexistence can safely commence?”
“Vigilante Ancients?” Law asks, but I’m too shocked to respond. Because Zeus Castello has just walked off the stage.

The leaders jump up. One yells after him.

The screen cuts to black.”

Evidently we as humans do not learn our lessons from history very well, because in Melissa West’s Gravity human-kind nearly destroys itself with nuclear war.  Enter The Ancients, an alien race who steps during the aftermath  and offers to restore our shattered planet, for a price- that once a human turn ten, they participate in The Taking, when The Ancients come at night through the trees and take antibodies from their human hosts so that they can become acclimated to Earth and survive.  

In 2140, seventeen year old Ari is daughter of the Engineer Commander of the Americas, and has her life laid out before her.  She has been studying to become an OPS agent, training for the day when she will take over for her father.  Her future as wife to the future President of the Americas has been secured for her by their parents.  Yet her life changes on the night when she discovers that the Ancient assigned to her isn’t some strange being after all- it’s one of the most popular boys in her school.  Jackson and her accelerated training soon make her question everything she’s ever known- that the Ancients are a plague, that they are intent to destroy mankind, and that humans must defend at all costs.  And as a single choice changes Ari forever, can she choose human or Ancient, or will she have to?

I really enjoyed Gravity, and it was a quick read.  Ari is more of a humanist (if that can be the word when you’re talking about humans and aliens) than you are lead to believe in the beginning, and a lot of readers will compare and contrast her to dystopian heroines Katniss from The Hunger Games series and Tris from Divergent series, and it’s a fair comparison, as Ari has both good and bad points.  Gravity ends on a whale of a cliffhanger, leaving readers definitely wanting more.  Secondary characters Lawrence and Gretchen add to the mix, and I really want to see what happens with them as well.  I did see some of the twists coming, but readers will be engrossed.  And for those who like their science fiction with romance, there is plenty to go around; absolutely a hit with readers who like love twists with their sci-fi, but might be a turn-off to readers who want more straight out action.  

Definitely good for libraries, and a good pairing for The Host by Stephanie Meyer, Starters by Lissa Price, or Across the Universe by Beth Reevis if you want to delve into the replacement/alien factor.  Recent and hot dystopias would be The Hunger Games and Divergent while older readers could be edged  into Wells’ War of the Worlds (oh, what an awesome book/movie night, even if you did the most recent one with HIM ), and David Weber’s Out of the Dark.

Gravity gives you no room to breathe AT ALL, and I really like that in a book sometimes.  Ari is really a complete character when you think about it.  You’re lead to believe that she’s a hard military operative in her father’s domain, but secretly, I think she would be more at home in her mother’s world of chemistry and advancement.  The fact that she looses her patch, discovered that her Ancient is the most popular boy in school, and everything she’s been taught may be a lie and she is still going is a huge plus.  She’s not reacting the way that you would expect with the build-up of her training, which keeps a reader guessing- there’s the love interest (which I really hope is explained the way I imagined it works in the series), the shock of what’s really going on in the Engineering and Chemist facilities with the Latent Ancients that have been discovered (think the movie District 9), and then her seemingly foreshadowing dreams.

And the twists aren’t just with Ari- there are twists between Lawrence and Gretchen, Lawrence and Jackson, the different viewpoints of the history of the Ancients and the Humans, on and on and on.  It’s definitely a fast and gripping read.  The only drawback would be that there is definitely more love stuff than some of my readers would like, so it will be a hard sell to some of them.  Others will eat it up.  And the fact that there is someone (at least at the beginning of the series) who is willing to learn first and shoot later is something to be excited about in a dystopia.

Gravity by Mellisa West. Published November 20, 2012 by Entangled Teen. ISBN: 9781620610916