My rating: ★★★☆☆
A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears at Amara’s Eden.
Fright Flight, I’m pleased to say, is what I expected it to be. I think it fulfilled its purpose: to present a young reader (seven to twelve is the recommended age, or at least that’s what the other reviewers are saying; the author actually told me seven to ten, which I find is a far better fit) with a fanciful SF/F story. Of course, I’m certainly not a member of the target audience, so I can only say this as an outsider looking in. But to me, Fright Flight came across as an acceptable addition to its genre.
On the other hand, I can’t help but feel disappointed in a way. While reading, I got the distinct sensation that a great premise had been directed toward the wrong audience. The book as it is focuses a significant portion of the plot on the main character’s dream—too much of the plot, in my opinion. What piqued my curiosity was not by any means the spaceships; instead, the Dream Seekers themselves and their vague abilities drew my eye. I would have been more interested to see an examination of this “dream seeking”. How does it work, for instance? Are the Dream Seekers travelling to some alternate reality? The “Blend In” rule lends credence to that theory. And what about his mother? She’s stated to be able to share her children’s dreams. How does that work? Sheer willpower? And then she’s actually shown to visit her son’s spaceship dream, which brought up a bigger question: if he’s in such a dangerous dream that he needs his mother there to guide him, why didn’t she just wake him up in the “real world”? Can they not be awoken during a “dream seeking” episode? If so, that would present the characters with a major hassle in their lives, and I’d like to see the ramifications of that. The father’s attitude deserves special note: he’s described as a geneticist whose goal is to disable the gene that causes “dream seeking”. And yet his wife and children are Dream Seekers. This man is rife with unfortunate implications; he’s shown to emphasize his desire for his family to be “ordinary”, and yet no tension is shown between him and the people whose very identity he’s trying to remove. This family, if portrayed realistically to an older audience than the one for which the book was written, would be absolutely riddled with psychological issues. So I would have liked to read this plot as a YA novel; it would have given the author room to explore and elaborate, and perhaps then it would have satisfied my curiosity.
But still, it’s a nice story for a elementary schooler. I would say it’s a nice story for a beginning reader; however, the diction at certain times disqualifies it. There are moments when the twelve-year-old main character uses words that many people don’t learn until high school if ever, and while it’s not unrealistic for a twelve-year-old to have a respectable vocabulary, it is unrealistic for a twelve-year-old presented as “average” to have one. And that’s where the problem lies: the book certainly isn’t marketed solely toward twelve-year-olds with an advanced vocabulary. It’s marketed toward seven- to twelve-year-olds in general, and seven- to twelve-year-olds in general might have to break out a dictionary at points, which I personally consider detrimental to the book’s purpose. (After all, it’s hard enough to convince some children to read, so why make it more work that it has to be?)
All in all, this is a good piece; it does in certain moments make itself apparent as a first novel (the character’s voice comes across as a bit unpracticed, wavering between childlike and mature between paragraphs, and and there’s pointed avoidance of the word “said”, which is unnecessary at best and annoying at worst), but not in such a way that the target audience (or anyone else who isn’t actively looking for it) would notice. I would recommend it to any five- to ten-year-old with an interest in SF/F, and I do hope that this is an author who’ll continue to develop her craft as she continues with her series. And who knows? Maybe some of my questions will be answered as she goes.