I picked this one up from my NetGalley arcs, hoping to get slightly ahead during the holiday period, rather than wanting to start the year with an engrossing book, so it was a lovely surprise when this YA science fiction offering turned out to be such fun.
Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever. Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly manoeuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right—there’s more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.
This entertaining book contains many elements familiar to YA fans, such as teenage protagonists, a school setting and the difficulties of establishing friendships in a potentially hostile, dangerous environment. The enjoyable twist Vaughn adds is that Polly and Charles are Martians, born and bred. So they struggle in Earth’s heavier gravity, immediately standing out as they are paler skinned, taller and thinner than Earth-born children. I loved seeing our home planet through Polly’s jaundiced eyes. She is horrified at the amount of life heaving in the soil and infesting all the plants and shocked at how profligate Earth inhabitants are with water and air. I loved reading of her struggle to cope on her first foray outside in a world without a protective dome. These details of scene setting that ordinarily are taken in alongside the story became a joy to read, along with Polly’s unenthusiastic take on her fellow students.
She is also chafing at the tightly controlled school regime, though her boredom is increasingly alleviated by the steady trickle of disturbing incidents that start to stack up. I also enjoyed her squabbles with her insufferably smug and clever brother, Charles. While he does look out for her, he’d rather rip his tongue out by the roots than admit it – typical teenage brother, in other words. The spiky relationship between the siblings feels pleasingly realistic and nicely unsentimental.
This one proved very difficult to put down as the tension rapidly increased and I found myself engrossed in Polly’s world, trying to work out what was going on. The denouement was a surprise, though it did make sense and I came to the end of the book far sooner than I wanted. More please, Carrie Vaughn!
And if you are a fan of Janet Edwards’ Earthgirl series, then take a look at this book which I recommend. Receiving a copy of Martians Abroad from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.