Today, I'm reviewing Kimberly Derting's The Taking. I wanted to love this book, but sadly… it just wasn't meant to be.
Published April 29th 2014 by HarperTeen
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
Synopsis via Goodreads:
When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.
Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.
Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?
I come from a family who love sci-fi, and I grew up on a pretty steady diet of Crichton, Bradbury and Clarke. So when I realized what The Taking was about, I was REALLY excited at the idea of a YA story along those lines. Unfortunately, the book just couldn't meet my expectations.
Things that worked:
One of the most attractive and unique things about The Taking is the plot. A girl disappearing and reappearing isn't all that unusual to YA, but Derting takes it to a whole new dimension by adding in a possible alien abduction.
Derting adds in a lot of clearly well-thought out details about the abduction and the abducted, which sets up some interesting questions about the world that Kyra has inadvertently found herself in after the abduction and the return.
While I didn't especially like Kyra as a character - more on this later - I thought that Derting did a good job of showing Kyra's confusion, resentment and anger after being returned to her family.
Derting perfectly nails just how stressful and bizarre it would be to be in Kyra's situation, realizing that everyone and everything had moved on in the last five years, and she has remained exactly the same. And once Kyra begins to figure out what's actually going on with those who have also been returned, Derting does a fine job of showing how Kyra moves beyond her initial confusion and hesitation, into decisive action.
Even though this is very much Kyra's story, Derting does a fine job with the secondary characters as well. Kyra's parents show just the right degree of awkwardness and formalness that would make any protagonist feel uncomfortable, while she also clearly shows just why Kyra would want to run away from her former friends and home - because they remind her of what they once had together.
However, with that being said, this is where my love of this book basically ended…
Things that didn't work:
Unfortuntaely, I just couldn't get behind the relationship between Kyra and Tyler. Not only did the relationship feel like insta-love, I was a little weirded out by the fact that Kyra could fall for her ex-boyfriend's brother so quickly.
As Kristen says in her review, it didn't necessarily matter that it had been five years for Tyler, it literally felt like a day for Kyra. So to have it happen so quickly… no. Just no.
On his own, I liked Tyler as a character. He's thoughtful, smart and artistic. However, when it came to Kyra, he was just weird. Like, almost Edward Cullen-level types of creepy. He immediately latched onto Kyra, and they started having those "I can't live without you" types of moments that made me question his common sense/sense of self-preservation.
I mean, dude. Your brother's ex-girlfriend comes back from the dead (more or less), and she hasn't aged a single day. Aren't you going to be at least a little weirded out by that, before you start hitting on her? Aren't you going to wonder just a little bit, where she's been? Or am I just being too picky?
The lack of understanding about how the federal government works
Okay, this is a pet peeve of mine, largely because I do work for the government. But I wish authors would actually take the time to do the research on various branches of government, especially when it comes to the defense community.
I don't think it's too much of a spoiler if I say that Derting makes a branch of the defense community into the villain of the story. And as Kyra progresses deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of the returned, the creepier they get. Unfortunately, if the reader understands how government works at all, they would realize that what she describes is basically impossible for that particular branch.
Without giving anything away, I ended up spending a huge portion of the book thinking "Man, I wish Derting had simply researched this villain, because the villain could have been creepy as hell. But now, I just can't take this book seriously."
I think that Kimberly Derting has an interesting concept on her hands, which could have had a lot of potential. However, she decided to focus more on the relationships rather than the supernatural, which kind of lessened the reading experience for me.
However, I'm still curious to see where she goes with the plot, and whether or not she'll start focusing on more of the supernatural elements of the story. Will we learn more about the history of the aliens in the next book?
Finally, I don't know if I would recommend this book. I think it's one of those things where it really depends on your level of like/familiarity with Derting, and your willingness to put aside some general things - e.g. the relationship with Tyler.
YMMV, and I've be interested in hearing what all of you think!