In a sea of dystopian novels, it has become hard for one series to stand out. However, Karen Bao’s Dove Arising series has surpassed the expectations of a teen novel by taking things out of this world, the moon, and bringing it all back to Earth.
Bao’s first book, “Dove Arising,” introduced a science-driven introvert, Phaet Theta, in a psuedo-democratic new colony on the moon. Phaet is a quiet girl, bordering on mute, who must find strength in not only her voice, but also herself. The government is hiding how it manages resources and how it fixes elections each year. Together, Phaet and her trainee partner turned best friend, Wes Kappa, manage to expose government secrets. However, Phaet;s meddling causes the government to capture and kill her mother, who was the leader of a rebellion group called Dovetail. They try to capture Phaet too, but Wes takes frees her and they find refuge on a rocket hurtling towards Earth.
“Dove Exiled begins with Phaet on Earth having lived in Wes’s home country, Saint Oda, for a few months. Being on Earth not knowing what has happened to her family or close family friends has her troubled and longing for a rocket. Her mother’s death replays in her head. These images fuel her ambition to devise a trip back to the moon, even if it costs her friendship with Wes or costs her life.
Yet she has enjoyed her time on Earth, and the time spent getting closer to Wes, whom she found out on the ride there that he is actually a spy from Earth named Wesley Carlyle.
Bad governments might seem like a stereotype now, but it’s everyone’s fear in a democratic society. Bao’s beautiful writing makes this book worth a read. She mixes science and passion through her main character. It’s surprising Bao started this series when she was only seventeen, and went on to publish in college. Even though Phaet is science-driven and inept at verbally expressing her emotions, she is self-aware of how she feels and does not downplay her emotions.
What makes this series a little different than the rest? For one, the main character is Chinese. It’s frustratingly hard to find a young adult novel not about a white kid. This is also a world of known diversity. Bao makes it clear everyone is from different countries, even if those places don’t actually exist anymore in the world she has created.
Phaet has to keep her identity of her lunar birth a secret on Earth. The moon has long ravaged Earth for its natural resources, and Odans will never forget when the Lunar Forces raided their peaceful home country. The Earth-dwellers also believe the people from the moon, or Lunars, are godless, and therefore demons. In Saint Oda, God is present in a religion similar with Christianity, but it takes a more naturalistic approach. The Odans believe the Lunars are so driven by science and new technology that they have forgotten the importance of being human.
When Pacifica, a floating city, threatens to overtake Oda with its superior weapons and Lunar alliance, tensions on the island become tight. Their only hope is another floating city, democratic Battery Bay, where free speech and media frenzy are common, to aid them in the fight against communist Pacifia.
The clashing of different lifestyles shows the contrasts of how people live. Of course, the ideal is a level of controlled democracy. However, no new government is formulated in this story because the old one still needs to be overthrown.
Even though Phaet’s life is once again in danger, she manages to conduct an escape route back to the moon to save the rest of her destroyed family. With her brother captured by the government and her sister and childhood best friend living in Shelter, a horrible, disease-ridden place where people are treated like less-than-animals, Phaet must return home. Even if that means leaving Wes behind.
Training has made Phaet able to severely injure someone or kill without a second thought in the moment. However, since she is only sixteen and actually has a heart, she can’t help but think about the family she just separated or about the life one person could have led when she kills them. Phaet seems is able to switch from heartless to drowning in emotion a little to quickly, which is a little uncharacteristic in humans.
Bao shows serious promise in changing the content of young adult science-fiction. No longer will we have a damsel in distress being saved by a mysterious newcomer just in time to ace that math test and save the world. Phaet dreamed of going to school, but now knows she must find a way to not only save her family, but her home. She may still be fighting for freedom, but she is doing so independently.
**Image was taken from the Goodreads website. It is the cover of the novel, I did not take this picture.**