Aaru by David Meredith*

28 Oct 2017

Yes, I'm finally posting another book review. It feels like a lifetime since my last one and, sadly, that book in particular didn't really hit the mark for me, but today, I'm talking about one that did! I was very excited when the email from David, the wonderful author of this book, pinged into my inbox, asking if I'd like a copy to review. Of course, I had to say yes! I love reading and discovering new authors, but what made this book really attractive to me was that it's a YA. You all know how much I love a YA! Now, it took me a little while to read because of university and other life things getting in the way, but now that I've finished, I've got the great pleasure of telling you all about it.

Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.

She is sixteen years old.

Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure.

A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death.
Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model. Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale. What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger.
Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.

Normally, I'd do a bit of a summary about the plot of the book I'm talking about without giving away any spoilers, but I think that the blurb above has done the job pretty nicely. As you're probably able to tell, there are plenty of sci-fi elements to this story, along with elements from the thriller genre and drama, all encompassed into a YA book. It's a little over 300 pages long, so not too lengthy, making it the perfect book to read over a few evenings.

One thing that really stood for me whilst reading Aaru was the descriptive language used, particularly around the world of Aaru. I'm not sure if this was a deliberate choice made by David, but I found that there was a real lack of description around 'the real world' which made it seem very grey and dull, but when it came to Aaru, it felt like everything was so much brighter and vivid. It really made me want to see a visual representation of the world that was being created! That being said, it did make me whizz through Koren's parts of the story, just so I could get to Rose's. But whilst we're on the subject of the world of Aaru, I thought the concept for it was brilliant. I think the idea of scanning someone's mind and uploading it into a virtual space is amazing, although as we can see from the story, it's also dangerous. It reminds me a lot of the San Junipero episode of Black Mirror (which is absolutely fabulous by the way, watch it if you haven't already). It's also a concept that feels a bit alien, but could also have the potential to be very real and close to home in the climate we're living in.

My favourite character from the book was Rose. As someone that has been effected by cancer and experienced what it's like to lose someone to such an awful disease, she had me hooked from the very beginning. Everything that was happening to her at the start really resonated with me, but even after that and when she was uploaded into Aaru, I found her fun, hugely likeable and a character that I wanted to read more of. To me, she felt like someone that I wanted to be friends with - courageous, caring and sweet. I was also living for her relationship with Franco. I'm a huge fan of relationships in stories that work (J will tell you, if we're watching a show or film that has a horribly forced relationship in, I will talk about it for weeks), and these two worked massively. I found myself so excited to find out what would happen with them next and I was just willing them to kiss! I can't wait to find out if they're still together in the next book.

Sadly, I have to say that Koren wasn't a character that I bonded with. Like with Rose, I really related to the way she felt about her sister having cancer, but she was lacking a bit of spark for me. I loved that she went through a bit of a transitional period by losing the black hair and 'goth' clothes, but at the same time, something just didn't click with her and I. As I mentioned earlier, I was reading through her parts very quickly so that I could get back to Rose in Aaru, because her sections felt very grey. While this is something that you may like in a character, she just wasn't for me.
Whilst I did enjoy David's writing style very much, I really didn't like that he wrote out certain characters accents. For example, the guy that runs Elysian Industries and recruits Koren as the face of their company trades his "th"s for "d"s, so instead of "that", we get "dat". For a while, I managed to deal with it, but it wasn't long before I started to get annoyed. There were a couple of other characters that he did this for, and while I understand that it's to paint an image of these people in our heads and give them a certain voice, I didn't like it all that much. Aside from that though, the writing was wonderful!

As I've mentioned, this book is a YA and marketed as a YA, however, there are definitely points where it doesn't feel like a YA. Sure, there are sci-fi, drama and thriller moments, but they work with the overall YA genre of the book, however, towards the end, the story gets extremely dark very quickly. As always, I won't give any spoilers, but trigger warning: sexual assault, child pornography, abduction and rape. I didn't see any of this coming as I was reading the book and I was very shocked when the Magic Man character was introduced. I found him deeply disturbing and at points, I was so uncomfortable with the way the story had gone. It definitely showed the way that celebrification can go horribly wrong, but man, it was dark. Just please be aware if you're someone that is sensitive to those themes!

The book is left on a huge cliffhanger, so I'm interested to see if David will be bringing out a sequel. I hope he does because I have plenty of questions that need answering! Who is Magic Man? What will become of Aaru after all the chaos at the end? Will Koren ever be the same? And for goodness sake, will Rose and Franco get married already? I'd also love to see David explore some of the other characters a little further. I feel like Auset could have a lot to offer the story, along with several of the other Aaru residents.

So if a book about life and death, sci-fi, new concepts, teen romance ad exploration of the dark side of stardom sounds like your cup of tea, then Aaru is the book for you! It's available on Amazon now! I would quite happily read it again, myself, just to see if there was anything I missed, but like I said, I'm hoping for a second part to the story.

All items that are marked with a * have been sent to me or gifted by a PR company for review purposes.

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