Written by: Kristy Acevedo
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Pages: 283 (Paperback)
Series: Book One of The Holo Series
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Why I Chose It: When Speculative Chic put out the call for people willing to read and review the books nominated for the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award, I choose Kristy Acevedo’s Consider. I have been trying to read more outside my comfort zone and Consider falls into two genres that I don’t read very often — young adult and science fiction. When I was actually a young adult in the nineties, I found the teen books were terribly written and after-school special preachy, with lessons like “Don’t have unsafe sex” and “Don’t do drugs.” I stayed out of that section of the library once I turned twelve. I started giving young adult books a second chance a few years ago and there have been quite a few misses but also some definite hits. Consider is my first time reading a science fiction young adult novel.
As if 17-year-old Alexandra Lucas’ anxiety disorder isn’t enough, mysterious holograms suddenly appear, heralding the end of the world. They bring an ultimatum: heed the warning and step through a portal-like vertex to safety, or stay and be destroyed by a comet that is on a collision course with Earth. The holograms, claiming to be humans from the future, bring the promise of safety. But without the ability to verify their story, Alex is forced to consider what is best for her friends, her family, and herself.
To stay or to go. A decision must be made.
With the deadline of the holograms’ prophecy fast approaching, Alex feels as though she is living on a ticking time bomb, until she discovers it is much, much worse.
Discussion: There are some young adult books that are easy to relate to as an adult reader. Unfortunately, Consider is not one of them. I spent about the first 130 pages of the book thinking, “Time travel is real and a giant comet might end all life on Earth, maybe you shouldn’t be equally worried about whether or not you and your boyfriend should attend the same college.” Perhaps part of my problem is that I didn’t relate well to teenagers even when I was one. I distinctly remember being in eleventh grade math class and rolling my eyes at the girls who, like Alex, thought that their high school boyfriend was their one true love.
Acevedo does something that I have noticed in a lot of young adult novels — she gives her main character the perfect high school boyfriend that we all wish we could have had. Dominick, Alex’s boyfriend, is smart, caring, and understanding. He’s madly in love with Alex and incredibly committed to her for a high school kid. Meanwhile, when I was on the yearbook staff in high school, I got mooned in the line of duty. One of my friends told me that when he was in high school, he and his friends ate prunes before school so they could wage flatulent biological warfare against their English teacher. Those guys, the typical teen-aged boys who think mooning people and farting are hilarious, never seem to make it into any young adult novels.
The book’s biggest strength is how it handles mental illness — both Alexandra’s anxiety disorder and her father’s PTSD. Alexandra’s actual experience of anxiety and the way that other people react to it feels very realistic. She describes mistaking panic attacks for symptoms of a heart attack and doing a form of therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) that can rewire the brain. Her boyfriend thinks love should cure anxiety. Benji, her brother, tells her,
“Dad’s like he is because of war. He has a real reason. He was in actual battles where people died. Blown up. Body parts burned and scattered. Friends lost. You have no reason to be like this. None. You just overanalyze everything. You think seeing Dad screwed up made you screwed up? Give me a break. I grew up here, too, and you don’t see me copping out or breaking down. I mean, my life’s way more stressful than yours, and I’m still standing. Yes, that kid fell into the vertex. You didn’t. You’re fine. Get some perspective and grow up already” (p. 125).
Sadly, from what I‘ve heard from people who suffer from anxiety and depression, people thinking that it isn’t really an illness and acting as if it’s a choice is quite true-to-life. It also seemed reasonable to me that her family deals with her dad’s PTSD largely by ignoring it.
However, Alex’s anxiety disorder falls to the wayside as the potential apocalypse draws near. It seems strange that Alex doesn’t worry about getting her anxiety medicines even as food becomes scarce. The book’s deft handling of mental illness left me wondering what this book would have been like without the end of the world — if it was just about a seventeen-year-old girl coping with anxiety disorder while navigating romantic relationships, college applications, and a father with undiagnosed PTSD?
With the exception of Alex and her father, I found all of the characters to be a bit too generic. Dominick is too good to be true and his and Alex’s love story never seems believable. Rita, her rebellious best friend with the strict, religious parents feels like the stock sassy best friend character from an endless number of teen movies and novels. Alex’s brother starts out as the stereotypical cruel older sibling, although it is later revealed that he has been keeping a difficult secret, but even the secret feels expected, not shocking. Alex’s mother and grandmother made no impact on me as characters.
Normally, I am pretty accepting of “Advancements in future technology. Just go with it,” as an explanation for scientific phenomenon in speculative fiction. However, even for a young adult novel, Consider really pushes its luck on not explaining the science. The vertexes only allow time travel one way, so once you go through there is no coming back or even communicating with those left behind. Everyone on Earth accepts this without issue. The holograms function as futuristic Siris, explaining that in the future, people live 250 years and there are no wars, natural disasters, or diseases. Consider is listed as being appropriate for eighth graders, but I bet even the middle schoolers reading this book probably think, “That sounds a little too good to be true.” Yet as far as the characters go, only Alex’s dad is skeptical of the holograms. There is also the dilemma of every astronomer in the world missing a comet gigantic enough to destroy the Earth until there are only three months left until impact. It turns out that there is a logical reason for this, but that explanation gets ignored when the United Nations can fire missiles, detonate a nuclear bomb, and even worse, land a ship on the comet with no apparent difficulty.
Because I never connected to the characters, it didn’t resonate emotionally when people started leaving through the vertexes. These should have been gut-wrenching scenes but instead they barely register. I was excited about the premise of people having to make a choice to stay on Earth or leave for the unknown, future Earth but it didn’t pay off. I think this premise would have worked better in an adult book or in a book told from multiple points of view. There was an unexpected twist at the end that I didn’t see coming but it was too little, too late.
In conclusion: I have read certain young adult books (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, for example) where the age of the protagonist worked in the story’s favor. The emotional vulnerability of the adolescent characters made for a more impactful reading experience. However, sometimes the concerns of the characters in YA books feel teen-aged and silly to me as an adult. Consider fell into the second category. It’s not a good sign when you’re rolling your eyes, thinking, “Girl, you and your high school boyfriend are going to break up three weeks into freshman year of college like everyone else does. You probably want to be more concerned about the potential end of the world.” If I hadn’t been reading this book for a review, I would have tossed it to the side long before finishing it. Even before I started reading, I thought this book was a long shot to win the Philip K. Dick award because it’s the only young adult nominee and the only choice that is the first book in a series. By the time I finished it, I wondered how it even got nominated.