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Dangerous by Shannon Hale
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Maisie "Danger" Brown was born without a right hand, and is thrilled when she wins a scholarship to attend astronaut camp, run by a private entity. When she and her friends accidentally are infected by what appears to be an alien technology, their lives are in danger from a variety of sources. ( )
  pmlyayakkers | Mar 13, 2014 |
Maisie wins a cereal contest to attend astronaut camp and becomes one of a select few to travel up the 'Beanstalk' to a space station. While there, the teens are infected with alien nanotechnology that turns them into superheros. All of them turn bad, however, and only Maisie remains to save the world from an alien invasion. This book is action-packed and would be great for teens who love superhero stories; the characters all have really cool superhero powers. That said, I was disappointed with Hale's effort for this novel. I felt that the characters themselves never became more than their superpowers; even Maisie didn't feel like a real person to me. The love triangle involving Maisie is also poorly depicted. For another novel about space technology and aliens, this time with a horror film feel, try 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad. ( )
  DeweyEver | Mar 1, 2014 |
DANGEROUS was an excellent science fiction story with touches of romance and touches of humor too. Maisie Danger Brown is a pretty normal teenager except for the fact that she was born missing her right hand. She has been home-schooled and is the child of two scientists. Her mother is Paraguayan which makes Maisie fluent in both English and Spanish. Her dad is most known for his really bad puns. Maisie has always wanted to be an astronaut. When the chance comes to enter a contest to win time at space camp, Maisie is all over it. Her home-schooled, isolated life is starting to be a tight fit for her. She wants to see more of the world.

To her surprise, she is selected for the space camp where she meets a number of fellow campers including Jonathan Ingalls Wilder who is the son of one of the world's richest and most ruthless men. They form a relationship that confuses Maisie. He gives her her first kiss and then also ignores her. He is really manipulative. The camp is run by eccentric genius Dr. Bonnie Howell who is the founder of Howell Aerospace and the inventor of the "beanstalk" that helps humans get into space.

It turns out that Howell has a plan and needs a group of teenagers to accomplish it. Maisie, Wilder, Mi-Sun, Jacques, and Ruth form a team that wins the challenges and gets to visit the beanstalk. They even get a quick trip into space where Howell shows them an artifact that was found on the asteroid that is the beanstalk's anchor in space. Howell shows them the artifact which then is absorbed into their skin and causes both physical and mental changes for all the team. Wilder becomes the leader - the Thinker. Maisie becomes a technological genius. Mi-Sun develops the ability to use electrons generated by her body to turn any projectile into a weapon. Jacques develops the ability to form an armor made out of polymers created by his body. And Ruth becomes super-fast and super-strong. But everyone doesn't adjust well to their new enhancements. Ruth becomes overwhelmed by hers, has anger issues, and becomes a murderer.

Meanwhile, all of them are wondering what the purpose of these alien artifacts are. They also have to deal with the fact the Wilder's dad really wants to control all of them to better his business. Maisie isn't sure that she can trust Howell either. Events show that she definitely can't trust Wilder. Maisie is left with a problem way too big for any teenage to deal with.

The story was action-packed. Between threats from a ruthless businessman and an invasion by aliens who want to take over the Earth, Maisie has a lot to do and a lot of decisions to make. I loved the relationship between Maisie and her parents. I loved her best friend Luther. I hurt for her as she tried to figure out what her relationship to Wilder could and should be. Maisie was a great character who, while sheltered, wasn't naive. She was smart, focused, and well-balanced.

I really enjoyed this story and can't wait to share it with my students. ( )
  kmartin802 | Feb 27, 2014 |
Oh… what a bleepity-bleep work of astronomical ART!

Part of me love-LOVEs this story, so many, many things about this story.

The other part about me feels like knocking on wood or not saying something too loudly so that it won’t come true. Because this book is horrifyingly real. It doesn’t just feel possible, it feels like it happened in the news and I just didn’t know what to watch for. Like I saw it, but I didn’t really see it. And frankly… that gives me a healthy dose of the eebie jeebies.

Yeah, so if yer lookin’ for “cute” and “fluffy” and “tender”, keep walking.

I suppose the cover hints about that. I mean, Dangerous?! Good title really. Little too innocent.

What I loved for starters:

I love feeling like I have the brains of a super-smart brainiac. The science is sooooo insanely cool. It’s not techno-over-the-top-of-my-head… rather it threw me INTO Maisie’s head so that it all made perfect sense, even when she went into hyper-smart modes. The way Hale describes how she is able to look at technological stuff and “speak its language” just took the BIG-SCARY right out of it. I didn’t need to be an engineer to feel like one, which… GENIUS!!! Usually when I read something mega-intelligent, I feel Unintelligent, you know? Like “skim that paragraph ‘cause I’m sooo lost!” The only lost moment is the… uh… very alien preview, which felt more real for being so incomprehensible.

I did not think that I’d like the idea of Maisie having NO ARM. The idea is announced as a blow. So, naturally, I immediately struggled with the concept. It’s big – it’s the reality of working with one arm in a world that demands at least two (more like four). It’s the feeling of being different and the threat of who cares about it, why and how much. It’s revisiting that perception a second time, wondering if original conclusions were wrong. Like… does my mom really care that I don’t have my arm? Did she not want another kid because she didn’t want to bring another mistake into the world? These questions shouldn’t even be brought up, but they hang there, suspended in consciousness by people who know how to use words like weapons. Yuck. It’s one of the elements of this book that smells of horror. But also one of the most triumphant aspects as I grew to shout “I wish I only had one arm, too!! Fido rocks!” Fido – one of the arms Maisie builds for herself, all of which smack of “super-power awesome” and made me feel so limited with just a plain ol’ arm.

The horror. This is new to Shannon Hale’s collection of books, of which I have read most. None of her books have this much violence or the stark hopelessness that stories with horror thrive on. The other characters in this book are not rosy. Every single one – except maybe Dad & Luther – have some element of secrecy and hidden motives that affect the outcome of everything monumentally. It feels like everyone is a bad guy and even Maisie’s grip on Right is slippery. Not knowing who to trust creates a very insecure foundation for the entire story. My emotions felt bruised as I tried to look up to this person or that person only to uncover something untrustworthy and potentially horrific in each.

The romance. There isn't so much, really, except that there is a bit too much, too, which is weird. The conversation that laid the foundation for the romance is suspect of so many ulterior things. He is just a smooth talker. It sounds like he’s sharing his heart, but maybe he’s just acting. Maisie is so new to being courted, maybe her feelings are just a response to his games. There’s so much physical moments that are so new and fresh and exciting, but don’t necessarily have anything to do with something deeper than “that feels good.” Never mind their age. Getting to that part.

This book did not feel like a Shannon Hale which makes me want to give her a sweeping bow. In fact, the words disappeared. What words? I read the majority of this book on the train commuting to and from work and literally had to force myself to stop reading early so I wouldn't miss my stop. Every time I thought the action was slowing down and I could catch my mental breath, Maisie would literally TRIP into another moment twice as intense as the one we just survived. No exaggeration. So the writing is incredible and new territory for one of my favorite authors.

If you can, do yourself a favor and read this book in one sitting.

And fer cryin' out loud, DON'T SKIM! There are no extra words.

Part of me is interested in re-reading this book simply because I can’t believe how clueless I was at the beginning. It has to be a much different experience the second time ‘round. The other part of me is relieved to have gotten through it, cover to cover, and still be alive – like pat myself down everywhere, all systems ok? Ok. PHEW! And I would never put myself through that again. Except, rereading it would not be putting myself through it again because NOW I KNOW!

(Haven't read it, yet? I'm so sorry!)

Spoilery thoughts

DON’T READ THIS UNLESS YOU READ THE BOOK AND ARE AS UNERVED AS I AM! This book begs to be discussed. Don't spoil it though. Seriously. Don't. Just skip down past the purple type and you'll be... as fine as you can possibly be.

Pink fluffy bad guys? I mean, wow. How did she come up with that?! It’s the idea of a soul or spirit that is not affected by gravity… and an alien race that existed in that form primarily and used bodies like shells. CREEPY. Maisie’s thoughts about life-after-death and what happens to our inner beings is the key to the entire concept. This is the kind of creative thought that, in my mind, comes from thinking about the Bible and taking stuff literally. The Bible separates body from soul and spirit and talks about being re-united with a body or how the Word of God is a sharp sword to separate these invisible innards. What if an alien species was evil and cruel and selfish and thought nothing of borrowing our body shells before we were ready to give ‘em up? CREEPY!!!! Making them fluffy and pink only ruined my skippy opinion of cotton candy – it did not lighten up the threat of these aliens.

On the flip side – I love the concept that there are aliens out there who know about us and wanted to give us a fighting chance against these evil pink fluffies! (Pink?) I love LOVE the concept that they took the essence of the pink fluffy things and created a weapon (or series of weapons) to fight against them with. That the weapons themselves are potentially negative because of where they came from essentially. I love the misunderstanding about how they work.

I also love how simply effective they are. After all the techno complicated stuff... not to mention the mysterious layers of secrets everywhere, the actual fight was logical. LOVED that!

I enjoyed a lot of things in the end, like how the mad scientist really is a character with her own agenda, but she is consistent and likeable and her love for Dragon is downright beautiful. I loved how Wilder progressed to Wild Card and then Jonathon, someone who Maisie really could/would enjoy spending time with and grow increasingly attracted to.

I did not like being reminded that she is just starting high school and was sleeping with a kid who is also just starting high school. (Sleeping, not “sleeping”.) What is "14 yrs old" coming to these days?! The physical new-ness of their relationship did not feel 14. It felt like ready-to-experience-everything-long-term-and-make-commitments new. So I felt yanked into an older “new” and then yanked back out to a younger “new” that gave me a bit of whiplash. Maisie is at least 16 in my head. Not 14. Please, not 14.

Part of the horror aspect of the story is how real everything is. I can totally see an alien invasion happening that we mistook for something else. The idea that we’d need a 14 yr old to save the world is somewhat akin to the realization that Maisie will be saving the world with one arm. It’s one of those series of things in the book that just made me want to say, “Well, crap. That’s it, then.” Another one was learning that there would be an alien invasion and not quite wrapping my head around the idea of the magnitude… and then realizing that it already happened. We’re invaded and being taken over. There is no stopping it from happening because you didn’t realize it was even going to happen until it was too late to catch it before it happened. “Well, crap. That’s it, then.”

This was a regular theme. The dawning of realization after it was too late to do anything about it. Like Maisie’s mom. Like Wilder’s dad. Like the responses of the fireteam to their super-powers. Like finding out they had super-powers. Like the space compound being run by someone who’s crazy and loaded with her own agendas. Like not being able to shake GT, who is a real life-n-death size irritation when humanity is on the line. Like realizing that Dragon is really, really, really cool. Like realizing that attraction to someone can’t be changed by willpower, it has a life of its own.

This is one of those books that would be AWESOME to start discussion groups about. There is so much scope for the imagination.

To the one who wants to know… the story is complete in itself and wraps up a million loose ends very deliberately, sweetly, completely. For language, "Frac" is used and "Bleepity Bleep" is used a lot and is sometimes easy to fill in the blanks. For romance, there is kissing and some discussion of button placement and some cozy hanging out. And a lip smoosh. For violence... there is some disturbing stuff including a number of deaths, a healthy amount of blood, some zombie-like behavior including a dog gnawing on a human bone. *shudder* There's some torture and at least four fights to-the-death. The bad guys are really, really bad (so when I say the good guys are suspect of being bad, it's BAD!) They're twisted and heartless and intelligent about it. Being a good guy in this book is very painful. There's a lot of PAIN, in general.

If you like Shannon Hale, that’s nice, but be prepared to NOT compare this with any of her other (awesome) works. (Emma Burning had some disturbing moments, I suppose, but not like this.) If you were thinking about reading Shannon Hale for the first time… are you kidding me?! You just happened upon a GOLD MINE of good writing that will astonish long-term. Read all her stuff. I honestly don’t know if this book would top the list for hard sci-fi lovers or horror lovers… but for us fantasy-romance lovers, it’s like jumping into the deep end and getting comfy.

I understand the Love/Hate in the reviews I see on Goodreads. The “love” side of me looks more like “respect”. The “hate” response feels more like… finding myself in the deep end when I expected something else. There’s some “no-no-no-this-can’t-be-happening” that I experienced reading this book. I meant it, too. If I’d’ve stopped reading during one of those moments or skimmed through… I’d’ve given this book a 2. No joke.

But no… I was drug through the mud and came out the other side lickin’ my fingers ‘cause, by golly, that wasn’t mud, it was chocolate all along. ( )
  BurgandyIce | Feb 8, 2014 |
ILet me begin by saying that I love Shannon Hale's work. _Goose Girl_ and _Book of a Thousand Days_ are particular favorites of mine, and I've also enjoyed the _Princess Academy_ books. Hale has an instinctive sense of what aspects of an older tale are still going to resonate with contemporary readers, and she draws on those aspects to create three-dimensional characters and situations that evoke both times gone by as well as timeless emotions and conflicts.

So, I was eager to read _Dangerous_, which is set in the present, and which features a typically Shannon-Hale-esque protagonist: a smart, sensitive, witty young woman who's in the process of discovering the depth of her own strength.

In this case, that girl is Maisie Danger Brown (yep, that's her real middle name), the daughter of a microbiologist father and a physicist mother. With that kind of pedigree, it's no wonder Maisie gets excited when she sees a contest to win a spot at billionaire Bonnie Howell's "astronaut boot camp" on the back on a cereal box. One small problem: Maisie was born with only one hand, and though she has a prosthesis and is a homeschooled genius, she's pretty sure she won't be allowed to go, even if she wins.

But she does win, and she does go, and from that point on, the plot accelerates like a rocket ship.

At the camp, Maisie meets several other kids who become part of her "fire team": the groups campers are put in to solve various problems in simulated environments. Maisie's team performs so well that they're selected to go up to Howell's space lab--but once they've arrived, the kids' bodies are overtaken by alien "tokens" that give them various superpowers.

At this point, _Dangerous_ shifts into dystopian mode: the kids discover they're being used by competing forces, they attempt to escape, they struggle to figure out who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" are, and they eventually agree to lead the battle against the alien beings responsible for a mysterious world-wide pandemic dubbed the "Jumper Virus."

It's hard not to read this story as pretty derivative of other popular YA books and films in recent years: it's part _Hunger Games_, part _X-Men_, part _Uglies_…you get the idea. I don't have a problem with that, really, since that's kind of a reading sweet spot these days, and I'm all for giving kids more of what they like to read.

What bothered me as the story went along, though, were issues of pacing and tone. At times, big stretches of time would pass and we'd just get a brief summary of what happened, while other bits get drawn out too long. I'm thinking in particular of the romance between Maisie and fellow space camper Jonathan. Again, it's kind of a standard trope of dystopian YA lit these days that you have to have a forbidden/dangerous romance thrown into the mix, and that the male character has to be ambiguous: can our heroine trust him or not? Will he kill her or kiss her?

At least in the first _Hunger Games_ book, the budding romance between Katniss and Peeta didn't develop until they were hidden away in the relative safety of their cave; here, Maisie will stop virtually mid-battle-to-save-the-planet to wonder what Jonathan really thinks of her, or to moon over a recent make out session. That kind of thing not only undermines her strength, but seems even more unrealistic than the most fantastic elements of the plot!

And that's related to my issues with the tone: Maisie often delivers completely wack one-liners out of nowhere. They're intended to be funny (and sometimes they are), but more often than not they're disruptive, taking the reader out of the flow of the story to wonder, "Wait--what's going on here?" For example, at one point, Maisie and Jonathan are spying on the arch-villain who seems to be trying to kill them, and Jonathan starts biting her neck (what? bad timing, dude) and then calls her "brutal"…which leads to this exchange:
Maisie: "'You wanna see brutal?' I leaned over and picked up a steel dumpster.
Jonathan: "If that's an attempt to turn me off, it's having exactly the opposite effect."

That's actually one of the wittier non sequiturs, but others are just annoying.

Once Maisie and crew enter into direct battle with the aliens, though, things pick up, and I found the last hundred pages or so much more fluid and readable. And also a lot creepier: the description of the adult aliens silently swinging on park swings in a town that's been infected by the alleged virus is seriously disturbing.

And Hale's ending also avoids the pitfalls of so many dystopian-YA lit these days: it actually ends with order more or less restored, and the kids able to return to some kind of normal life. And best of all, this appears to be a standalone novel: no dragging this story out over two more increasingly dissatisfying sequels.

So, I'm kind of on the fence about this one. It's definitely NOT the first Shannon Hale book I'd mention to someone who asked me for book recommendations. And I'm not even sure it'd be among those of this genre that I'd recommend. But then, I'm not the target audience here--I'm a grownup, and one who likes fairy tales, not one who likes superhero stories or science fiction. Maybe I missed the point…but sorry, Maisie: you may have had your friend Luther "at extraterrestrial nanorobots," but you'd lost me long before that.

I read this as an e-ARC I received from Bloomsbury via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  rvhatha | Feb 2, 2014 |
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When aspiring astronaut Maisie Danger Brown, who was born without a right hand, and the other space camp students get the opportunity to do something amazing in space, Maisie must prove how dangerous she can be and how far she is willing to go to protect everything she has ever loved.… (more)

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