Fonda Lee delivers another sci-fi action and adventure book in her second YA novel, Exo.
Future earth has been invaded; it is now colonized and governed by an alien race known as the Zhree. Third person narrative follows teen protagonist Donovan Reyes, who has elite social status thanks to his bureaucratic father, and the exocel Zhree technology that has been fused into his DNA.
When Donovan is kidnapped by a terrorist organization known as the Sapience, a group of die-hard extremists who believe the Zhree should be eradicated from earth, he begins to question his own loyalties, and all he has been taught.
Rather than a book being about good vs. evil, this novel examines motivations, cause, and effect.
Because the book dives right into the storyline without explaining the Zhree takeover, or technology, some readers might feel frustrated and a bit lost. The construction of the world building comes in bits and pieces later on throughout the book, answering readers’ questions that loom from the beginning. A prequel chapter setting up the established environment would have been a great benefit to the reader to help them feel more adept at understanding this community.
The relationships that are tested within the novel are intriguing –friendship, family, race/species, government alliance. Does human progression mean cooperation with the aliens, or fighting for full freedom from their dominance?
With some conflict still unresolved, this begs the question, will this be a series? Still no word from the publisher if a follow up is in the works.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic
Profanity/Language: 14 religious exclamations; 32 mild obscenities; 6 derogatory names; 7 scatological words; 9 anatomical terms.
Violence/Gore: Few playful instances of violence; pamphlet promoting violent action; about 9 brief reports of violence and/or death; about 2 extended reports of violence and/or death; about 25 instances of brief threats or implications of violence; about 10 extended scenes of threats or implications of violence; extended scene (about 4 pages) exchange of gunfire, injuries mentioned, character kidnapped; extended scene (about 1 page) violent interrogation, mention of injuries; rocks are thrown at character, pushed down; extended scene (about 1 page) characters are violent with one another, mention of injures; character tortured; extended scene (about 4 pages) bombs are dropped, destruction of property, no casualties; character is described as violent and unstable; character is slapped, injury mentioned; extended violent scene involving blood and gore (about 6 pages) exchange of gunfire, injury and death; brief gunfire; few reports of injuries; character sees dead bodies, resulting from a violent incident; character examines pictures of bodies resulted from violent demise for identification purposes; extended scene (about 1 page) discussion of character’s execution; character is slapped; parent almost hits teen child in anger; extended scene (about 1 page) physical fight, character is executed; extended scene (about ½ page) gunfire, character is assassinated, brief description involving blood and gore; extended scene (about ½ page) character has a dream involving violence; character purposefully hurts themselves in emotional pain and anger; extended scene (about ½ page) character hurts another character; hostage situation; extended scene (about 2 pages) characters fight, attempted drowning, blood and injuries;
Sex/Nudity: Extended scene (about ½ page) males talk about attractive female; male flirts with female; species are said to be hermaphrodites; clinical nudity; slang for male genitalia (about 3x); unmarried adults kiss; teen character thinks about romance; teens kiss; adult male seems to be romantic with teenage female; extended scene (about 2 pages) teens kiss descriptively, flirt, touch each other romantically, sleep in bed next to each other; character draws nude pictures of fantasy creatures (3x); few times teen male talks romantically about teen female; teens hold hands and kiss (about 2x).
Mature Subject Matter:
War/terrorism/political upheaval, prejudice/intolerance, death/murder, loss/death of (a) loved one(s), child abandonment/parent’s separation/family division, kidnapping.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Mention of witnessing adult and teens smoke; a few references to drugs and alcohol; teens drink (about 2x).