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Book Review: Adaptation by Malinda Lo

“She couldn’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up. It was all one giant blank spot, and when she tried to think about it, pain pierced her head.” – from the back cover of Adaptation.

As Reese and David sit with their teacher in an airport waiting to return home from a school function, a plane crashes.  It turns out it wasn’t one plane, but many.  With all flights grounded they rent a car and try to make their way home through the chaos; cars flood the highways and the government seems to be directing traffic. In the midst of all this their teacher is shot and a gas station explodes. Soon Reese and David are in a massive car accident.

Days later they wake up in a secret government hospital and return home, having signed a non disclosure agreement, feeling a bit off.  Slowly the pieces come into place and they begin to learn that their time spent in the hospital has changed them in ways they could never imagine; They are now at great risk.

I am a huge fan of the X-files and was looking forward to reading this book, which has many cool X-files like elements in it.  There are government conspiracies, flashbacks bleeding into reality, and the so-called “men in black.”  The reveal of what, exactly, happened to Reese and David is not really a surprise, the elements leading up to it definitely sign post that this is the direction they are heading.

But if Adaptation is an episode of the X-files, it suddenly changes channels in the middle of the book and you find yourself watching an under developed after school special; suddenly, Reese meets a girl, Amber Gray, on the street and the attraction between the two seems to be instantaneous.  On their second or third meeting they are kissing.  At the beginning of our book Reese is beating herself up because she messed up the chance to kiss David and suddenly, she is making out with a girl she has barely met and knows nothing about.  The introduction of this character is so abrupt, it stops the momentum of the story and shifts gear.  A few chapters later there are some revelations that become relevant to our story and Amber is better integrated into the book, but it’s like the author changes channels once again and the two stories are now somehow meshed together on a new channel: the science fiction Lifetime movie network channel.

So here’s how it plays out: you’re moving along the alien conspiracy highway in this compelling science fiction adventure then – bam – you hit a brick wall of oddly developed and too quickly to be believed romance that totally stops you in your tracks, and then you slowly begin to pick up speed again on the alien super highway.  The first and the last parts work but the middle not so much, which is unfortunate because I think the teen science fiction genre is desperately in need of some more alien conspiracies to be honest. 

I think that Lo does an admirable job in many ways with the alien/government conspiracy elements of this story.  She hits all the right notes and mentions a lot of the classic tales (hello Roswell!), but there are some definite snags along the way.  And I give Lo credit for having a single mom who responds well when her daughter, Reese, comes to her with the information about what happened and when she catches her making out with a girl in her bedroom.  It was nice to see a teen have a healthy relationship with a parent and have good communication and support between the two.

In the end, I give Adaptation 3 stars out of 5.  I truly enjoyed the science fiction elements of this story, but feel that the relationship between Reese and Amber didn’t work the way the story needed it to and because the reveal of what exactly had happened to Reese and David was pretty clear very early on in the story.  When looking for science fiction meets romance, I think Roswell High by Melinda Metz still gets it right.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo releases in September of 2012 and is published by Little, Brown.


  1. I really liked Malinda Lo's ASH, which I read earlier this year, but I'm a a bit weary of this one. It just doesn't seem like my cup of tea really, and the alien conspiracy mixed with the school special element and romance seems a bit off. I think I may pass on this one as sci-fi just isn't my thing.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. I seem to be in the minority in that I really didn't care for Ash or what I've read so far of Huntress, and this book seems to have similar problems. I'll probably give it a try because I can't possibly pass up an alien conspiracy or an lgbtq teen book, but in general Malinda Lo's characters feel completely flat and emotionless to me. The romance always feels hollow.

    Thanks for reviewing!

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