Author: Adrian McKinty
Publisher: Amulet Books (October 1, 2011)
Danny Lopez is new in town. He made a mistake back home in Las Vegas, and now he has landed at an experimental school in Colorado for “tough cases.” At the Cobalt Charter School, everything is scripted—what the teachers say, what the students reply—and no other speaking is allowed. This supercontrolled environment gives kids a second chance to make something of themselves. But with few freedoms, the students become sitting ducks for a killer determined to “clean up” Colorado Springs.
I chose to review Deviant by Adrian McKinty because I thought the premise sounded interesting. With my background in psychology, I always love to read stories about troubled teens or "tough cases." Unfortunately, this description of the book seems to be misleading. The school isn't for troubled teens. It is an experimental school with strange programming, but it is a regular charter school.
I think it's pretty clear that I love books. Love them. I even love to love them. I hate it when I don't like a book, not just because it isn't a good reading experience, but because I feel bad for all the people who put so much work into the story. That's why this review is so hard to write.
I didn't like it.
And not one of those, "Oh, the story was good, but it wasn't right for me" kind of not liking either. It's one of those, "I really wish I was critiquing this as a writing partner so I could make comments about all the things not working for me," kind of not liking. :P
Okay, so let's start with the good. Despite the premise not sounding exactly like the above blurb, it is still an interesting one. There's a cat killer who we get to see into the mind of every few chapters. This creates a good sense of mystery and intrigue to balance some more mundane chapters. There's also a very strange school and the weird principal who runs it. The policies of the school and getting behind what's really going on there would be enough for a good story.
Now, the stuff I didn't quite like. Most of my dislikes can fall under the heading of: Does Not Sound Like Realistic YA. By that, I mean that the voice and the language didn't strike me as well done YA. I was painfully aware that an adult wrote this book. I mean, when was the last time a teenager described someone as a "valley girl?" The author tried to use updated dialogue on occasion, but didn't seem to use it right. For example, the phrase "made of awesome" is in there a few times. While this is a more current phrase, it wasn't always used correctly.
Also, everything is very clearly spelled out in a way that I found condescending to read. I'm sure this wasn't the author's intention and maybe I picked up on it more because I like to write, but I just wanted to scream, "Show, don't tell!" There was actually a part of the story where Danny does a mini psychological evaluation on each of the main characters (including himself). I realize, I am an adult reading a young adult book, but I think we need to give teenagers more credit for what they can pick up on in a story than this novel does.
Other than that, I think this story just wasn't for me. While the narration was mostly in Danny's head, it would randomly flip perspectives or go omniscent. Personally, I don't like that style, though others might. Also, I didn't feel as closely connected to Danny as I prefer to. Again, personal preference. Another nitpick that might not bother other people but definitely bothers me: there was product placement all over the place. Whether or not this was done intentionally, it bugged the heck out of me. These things alone wouldn't make me hate a story, but lumped together with my previous complaints made this story difficult for me to finish.
While I did not enjoy Deviant, I wouldn't write it off as a no-go for everyone. If it sounds like the type of story you like, I'd say read the first few chapters. They'll give you a good sense of what the rest of the story is like.
Overall rating: If interested, borrow it.