Monday, 30 January 2012

Book Review: A Class Apart by Stephen Henning

Pros: very interesting characters, good pacing, fair amount of suspense and action, compelling

Cons: story jumps between heads a lot, actions seem sped up at times

For Parents: some violence and deaths, no language or sexual content

The school bus 14 year old twins James and Samantha Blake are on is bombed, while returning from a field trip.  The survivors are taken to Brent Valley General Hospital where strange things start happening.  The twins discover they have somehow developed super powers and that someone is after them.

Despite the media blackout surrounding the hospital, Jasmin Sharma of 24/7 Interactive News is going for a big story and she doesn't care what laws she has to break or who she has to cozy up to in order to get it.

The twins are interesting protagonists, and Mr. Henning does a good job of showing their good and bad sides (how Sam is bullied but won't fight back, how James is popular but feels like he should do more to protect his less popular sister).  Even more interesting - mostly due to her duplitious nature - is Jasmin.  She's beautiful, intelligent and ruthless.  Minor characters are also fairly well fleshed out, giving the story nice depth.

In many ways this reminded me of the X-Men storyline that introduced Kitty Pride (the Dark Phoenix Saga).  The kids doubt their sanity when odd things happen and only slowly realize that they now have special abilities.

The pacing is good, with time for the characters to question what's going on in the hospital and for action packed scenes, making the book hard to put down.  The climax itself is pulse pounding if a bit over the top.

While jumping between heads to know what everyone is thinking was common in the past, most writing advice guides now recommend page breaks if you're going to change heads, in order to maintain clarity.  I had no problem following the jumps but other readers may find the technique confusing.

There were a few scenes where the action seemed sped up.  For example there's a scene where Sam is trying to put out a fire.  The implication is that she's trying hard to do this for several minutes, and yet she manages to successfully put it out in the same sentence that explains how hard this is for her. 

In the end it was a quick, fun read.  And while the book ties up one plot arc, there is definitely more to the story. 

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