The proliferation of YA novels featuring girls who kick ass continues to grow. At their worst, these female-led stories are clichéd Hunger Games copycats. But at their best, as with Toronto author Eve Silver’s first foray into writing for teens, they build their own mythologies based on solid plots, well-drawn characters, and clever storylines.
In Rush, we meet Miki Jones, a smart, sarcastic teen who has endured the loss of her mother to cancer (“Lost my mom. Stupidest euphemism ever. I didn’t misplace her; she died”). Miki is still struggling to regain some sense of normalcy when her world is thrown into an entirely different kind of chaos. In the course of saving a young girl from being hit by a truck, Miki is critically injured. When she comes to in a grassy meadow, her injuries mysteriously healed, she at first believes she is dead. But there are others in the clearing with her, including Luka, a boy from her school who was also struck by the pickup, and the enigmatic Jackson Tate. Miki soon discovers that she’s been “pulled” away from her life (or, rather, the moment of her death), into an alternate reality the characters refer to as “the game.”
The game is structured like a standard shoot-’em-up video game, the object of which is to kill the Drau, aliens intent on invading and decimating Earth. But this is no ordinary game; the threat is very real. Miki, Luka, and Jackson are descended from alien races that fled to Earth when the Drau destroyed their own planets, and are now tasked with protecting their home from the invaders.
This premise could be confusing, but Silver incorporates gaming terminology and explanations into the narrative so well that even readers with little knowledge of the pastime will feel up to speed. But the novel’s real strength lies in the ferocious battle scenes. Silver imbues these with a cinematic intensity that allows readers to be completely swept up in the action, muscles tense and pulses quickened. Likewise, scenes showcasing Miki and Jackson’s tumultuous budding relationship are just as thrillingly written. Silver’s previous books are in the romance genre, and while the action here is strictly PG, she obviously knows how to create palpable sexual tension.
Silver has produced a taut, exciting YA debut with believable dialogue, enticing characters, and a cliffhanger ending that will have readers waiting impatiently for the series’ next instalment.