Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Flame Still Burns

When you have lost everything, is there anything left to keep you on the right path? For Waverly, Seth, and Kieran, life on the ships headed to a new planet has been nothing short of devastating. But it doesn't end there. In Amy Kathleen Ryan's conclusion to the Skychasers series, she gives us Flame, which you are sure to burn right through. 

As Waverly and the other girls approach New Horizon, Anne Mather's ship, they leave the blown up bits of their ship, the Empyrean, behind them. People have died, their home is destroyed, and they are forced into the home of their enemy, a woman who had no qualms about drugging the Empyrean girls and harvesting their eggs to repopulate New Horizon. Living with them is deplorable, but it is the only option. They aren't even sure who made it onto the ship and who is lost forever thanks to the New Horizon terrorists who planted the bomb. While the people of New Horizons welcome them with open arms, it is hard to forget what happened to them on that ship, and who was responsible for it. 

Seth managed to get on the ship undetected, but quickly, the authorities on New Horizon were notified of his existence. They don't know where he is, but they know they don't want him roaming around on his own. Waverly can't let go of what they did to her, and seeing her mother, whose mind has obviously been tampered with, makes her resentment grow into an unmanageable beast. When she is approached by a group of insurgents who wish to take down Anne Mather, she finds herself embroiled in a treasonous plan that could easily destroy her. Kieran, kind, trustworthy Kieran, is the most misunderstood and underestimated kid on the ship. Anne believes she can use him to win the faith of the entire ship, but what she doesn't realize is that Kieran may be the strongest of all of them. Never underestimate a boy who was born to lead. 

Well, Ryan certainly knew where she wanted to go with this story, and she went there, all right! While the beginning of the series trifled with a love triangle, the end of the series was nothing short of world-making. Ryan took her young, naive characters and forced them to grow up, and grow up quickly. They were teenagers, but in these circumstances, they were the most responsible and humane of any people on those ships. It was a beautiful transformation to witness, and I whole-heartedly enjoyed it. I also really loved the conflict between these teens and the adults around them. Most of my young adult readers know what it feels like to not be taken seriously because of their age. They fall victim to mall curfews, decisions made about them, not with them, and they struggle to find their place in a world that expects them to act like adults while treating them like young children. It is a difficult point of their lives when their identities are being shaped, and Ryan's characters are a quintessential example of those circumstances. I think my students would find a lot of themselves in this story, even if it is a dystopic space opera!

This is a fabulous series for any teen, male or female. I think the subject matter is appropriate for younger readers with stronger language skills as well. It is an excellent story with characters you wish you knew in real life. As with any ending, you have a way you hope it ends. I think we all have a little disappointment with series conclusions, not because they didn't end well, but because we are sad to see them go, and I feel just that for this final book. The ending was perfect, in my opinion, but I wish it didn't have to end here. I won't ruin the ending, but when you get there, you will agree with me that you want to see more of these characters. The ending was beautiful, but it isn't done for me. I want more!

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