________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 41 . . . . June 22, 2018


Cross Fire.

Fonda Lee.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2018.
376 pp., hardcover, $23.99.
ISBN 978-1-388-13909-9.

Subject Headings:
Terrorism-Juvenile fiction.
Extraterrestrial beings-Juvenile fiction.
Human-alien encounters-Juvenile fiction.
Soldiers-Juvenile fiction.
Science fiction.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Rob Bittner.

*** /4



"Kevin Warde, one of West America's most notorious Sapience operatives," Commander Tate said, jabbing one arm of her wire-framed glasses toward the photograph on the wall screen with nearly as much hostility as Donovan felt. "Taking out Warde is tonight's primary mission objective. Intel is citing an eighty-five percent chance that he's inside the Sapience safe house we've pin-pointed in suburban Denver."

…Everyone on the mission's eight-person strike team knew that Donovan had a personal score to settle by bringing Kevin Warde to justice, and that he had specifically requested Commander Tate allow him to be part of tonight's raid.

The zhree have taken over Earth, making the planet a part of their galactic commonwealth. The aliens implanted certain human beings with a protective shield, making them into soldiers called exos. Donovan, the son of the Prime Liaison (a West American leader working with the aliens to keep peace between humans and the zhree)—and the focus of the first book in this series, Exo—is hopeful that he and his fellow exos are about to finally take down the leader of the Sapience rebellion. Sapience is dead set on ridding the planet of exos and zhree alike, and they are no strangers to violence and acts of terrorism. Cross Fire deals not only with the political tensions and violence between exos, zhree, and Sapience but erupts even further into chaos as Donovan finds out that the planet is in danger from another species of aliens who, unlike the current inhabitants of Earth, are not coming to try and form an alliance. As the Earth falls further into anarchy, Donovan needs to decide whose side he's on and whom he can trust.

      Unlike Exo, this follow-up transitions into new territory as the definition of "enemy" is reinterpreted with each passing chapter. Donovan as a character grows increasingly complicated, and his relationships with his fellow exos, and even the zhree, become more nuanced and emotionally charged. Lee is a talented author, but she has honed that talent even more in Cross Fire. She handles the complexities and the increasingly convoluted plot points with nuance and flair. I found myself much more invested with each character, including secondary ones, and even though I noted a slight discontent with the world-building in book one, I found myself much more comfortable with the reimagined earth that Donovan and the others exist within.

      I had also noted some pacing issues with the first book that I found to be thankfully absent in this sequel. Moments of incredibly fast-paced action and battle scenes are interspersed with politically and emotionally charged dialogue and tender, loving moments between exos, zhree, and squishies—non-exo-hardened humans—alike. It is not often that sequels are an improvement upon first books; however, in this case, the sequel is a strong follow-up. That being said, it is integral to read the first book in order to understand the terminology and background, as Cross Fire gives no recap to bring readers up to speed. Much more than a futuristic dystopian novel, Cross Fire is a heart-pounding thrill-ride that young readers will hopefully flock to.

Highly Recommended.

Rob Bittner has a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (SFU), and is also a graduate of the MA in Children's Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He loves reading a wide range of literature, but particularly stories with diverse depictions of gender and sexuality.

To comment on this title or this review, contact cm@umanitoba.ca.

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