Starseed Book reviewStarseed by Liz Gruder
Blurb: Kaila Guidry has always known she is different. When she meets Jordyn Stryker at school, she finds out just how different.
Jordyn was born and raised far from Earth, a starseed, one of six new students sent to Louisiana's Bush High to learn human ways. But Jordyn didn't count on meeting someone like Kaila.
When Kaila is pushed to her limit by high school bullying and cruelty, Jordyn awakens her to a new reality—and to love. But to prove herself, Kaila must look the other way as the real purposes of the starseeds unfold.
As the horrific plan behind the starseed visit to Earth moves inexorably forward, Kaila and Jordan, caught in an impossible love, must determine where their true loyalties lie.
Starseed was a fun read that recalled many missed memories of Twilight Zone (particularly the episode 'Lateness of the Hour'), The Outer Limits (the new more so than the old) and X-Files with a dash of high school drama and antics. Ms. Gruder takes the intricacies of alien abduction tales and mixes them with current reptilian conspiracy tales, combining both together to give her outsider heroine a journey of self discovery about who she really is. Heroine Kaila felt like an authentic teenager as she struggles to go to school and mingle with flesh and blood people while going to school like a regular teen. Her mother, after having a traumatic experience that is explained later in the book, is scared for Kaila. Not only is her physical appearance different from "the norm" but she also has a supernatural ability that her mother believes puts her at risk to beings not of this world.
Kaila's experience at school kicks off this tale as we are introduced to Kaila's future friends and a bevy of the usual school types which include, the preppies, the outsiders, the jocks, the nerds, the gamers and everything in between. Then there are "the aliens" as the other kids call them, a group of teens believed to be raised in a cult near New Mexico and thus have no parents of their own. They always travel in a group, wear silver jumpsuits and have large intimidating eyes. One of the things I really liked about Starseed was the commentary on humans from the outsiders. I liked how they talked about the compartmentalization of high school cliques and the cruelty that youngsters can often afflict on those different from them. I rooted for Kaila to survive in this atmosphere and was even more interested in how and why the clique soon took interest in her. While her curiosity was intriguing, I did find a moment or two where she was tough to root for when I feel she should have stood her ground and not given in to rowdy peer pressue (i.e. the party scene at her house) but I imagine being a teen after experiencing a seclusion, one would react in the same way especially if her crush were involved.
Ms. Gruder gives each character their own personality with a focus on expanding each of the outsiders, especially our curious hero Jordyn Stryker. I liked the tension between Jordyn and Kaila and was curious to read on to see how the abduction angle was used (especially in the classroom scenes) and why Kaila was so important. I love how Ms. Gruder tied in current celebrities and explained how many of them aren't quite human themselves.
While the book may elicit comparisons to a recent popular teen vampire book featuring similar tropes, I think Starseed stands on its own as it brings a nice sci-fi flavor with a dash of romance to the genre. Fans of SF in general can enjoy this and the juicy splashes of science fact and fiction along with those who would like to dip into the genre pool without being drowned in too much SF too soon. This is a welcome edition to the SFR YA genre.
Reading advisory: Contains language and some sexual themes/references