Allison's Book Bag

QUICK TAKE: Adaptation by Melinda Lo

Posted on: April 29, 2013

Recently, I was asked to review Adaptation by Melinda Lo, especially with the view of it as a multicultural book. To me,  it doesn’t stack up as one; the ethnic characters seem token. Moreover, as science fiction goes, Adaptation isn’t all that believable. The global conspiracy happens too fast and is too contrived. Incidentally, that’s also about how I viewed the romance.

Adaptation does have a promising premise. Birds fall from the sky. The public panics, and within one day most stores and restaurants have run out of food and interstate traffic is shut down. On a lesser scale, a gas station is blown up by desperadoes–and, oh, the only supervising adult is shot and killed. Then, on the heels of all this strife our two heroes land themselves in an accident, are found by scientists or medical doctors who conduct experimental life-saving medical procedures on them, and now our two heroes have alien powers. Wow!

I was pulled in immediately by the falling birds, then pushed away by the instant panic. Birds really have fallen from the sky before, and it was treated as little more than a curiosity. It takes a lot more to send people into survival mode these days. If not for the instant panic, Adaptation might actually have worked for me because it does cover ground that I have not seen too often in current young adult novels. Too bad.

Another problem with Adaptation is that the conspiracy theory is the only conflict which held my attention. Given that the main character’s dad is referenced maybe only three times, I never really cared whether Reese would accept a phone call from him after her accident. In fact, the only reason I can figure out why Reese’s dad is even mentioned is to explain why Reese wants absolutely nothing ever to do with a relationship. And that gives the unneeded reason for one moment wanting to kiss her debate partner David and the next feeling glad when he doesn’t. Seriously, conflicting  feelings is very normal in budding relationships–and so could have existed even if Reese’s parents were happily married. But then if not for those conflicting feelings, Reese might not have ever explored a relationship with a girl. Or so Lo would have us believe.

Now to the reason for my being asked to read Adaptation–the question of whether it constitutes multicultural fiction. So how diverse is it? Well, the bulk of the characters seem to consist of a typical Caucasian cast with two exceptions. Debate partner David is Asian, a fact Lo notes in the first few chapters but then never mentions again. There’s also an Asian newscaster who receives a single mention. That these references to race occur early contribute to my seeing them as token. Lo seems to want to be diverse, in that she also includes a female President and a lesbian relationship. However, none seem natural or integral to the story.

Adaptation did hold promise. The first chapter contained all the elements that could make for riveting and diverse fiction. If only Lo could have kept up that momentum. Unfortunately, I found myself rushing through far too many of the middle chapters, many of which were bogged down by an uninspired romance and too many fantastical events.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

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