I considered myself new to YA fiction until I considered that I've read a fair few books over the years that could be classed that way, or certainly would be in that section in WH Smiths. The one that springs to mind is Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman- a mash of allegory, fantasy, Steampunk and sci-fi.
And the featured book this week, Binary by Jennifer Jeff Coons, enters a similarly tricky to classify arena. I read the book earlier in the year when Jen was on the same publisher as me. She's since gone full indie and is self-pubin' Binary and the sequel Polaris on Kindle. I was immediately charmed by the almost fairy-tale quality of the sci-fi romance story, and look forwards to the sequel.
Binary is based on the premise of a parallel alien culture to ours which is linked in some mysterious fashion with Earth. The inhabitants of Gliese enter into a war with the Erisians, an invading planet with superior technology. Gliese is home to a range of bizarre and colourful races, of which the hero is the prince of. The ruling Gliesians have the ability to teleport (flash) and the hero, Prince Tyche, utilises this ability to reach our planet seeking help. This is driven by a memory he has of a girl called Brooklyn, who joins him with her friends, on a mission to fight the Erisians.
The story is told with alternating POV from Tyche and Brooklyn's perspectives and this first person style suits the romantic theme well. The story has a great momentum and an almost tele-visual quality to it, as the duo explore Gliese to gain advantage over the Erisians. It definitely finds it feet in the finale with action, suspense and betrayals all creating a strong conclusion.
In short it's a really enjoyable YA romance with a sci-fi setting and imaginative characters. Tyche is likeable, although seemingly perfect, and Brooklyn makes a strong female lead.
I interviewed Jenn about her work and her chosen genre-
Me: I'm not a big YA reader, but I really enjoyed your book. What inspired you to write a YA sci-fi fantasy versus the more usual YA paranormal?
JJC: A while back I took my kids to the Museum of Nature and Science here in Denver. We wandered through the exhibits and ended up in the planetarium. They were doing a question/ answer show. Everyone was asking about a newly discovered planet named Glise- 581g. I guess it had been in the news a lot recently... I hadn't heard about it. By the time we left the planetarium, my kids were practically jumping up and down with excitement about this new planet. Most of all they were excited because this planet was in the so called "Goldilocks Zone" (It is not to hot or too cold but the planet was just right for life to exist.) I decided that day that I needed to write a book about that planet.
Me: You clearly love sci-fi. What are the main influences on your work within the genre?
JJC: Okay so this is embarrassing... I had never read sci-fi before I wrote my book. 80% of what I read is YA. Most of that is Paranormal or adventure like books. Although now that I wrote Binary, I have read a lot of Sci-fi. So no sci-fi author influenced me... YA authors influenced me. The author who influenced me the most is probably Rick Riordan's work. Even though it is more mid grade. I love his writing style and his attention to detail.
Me: I loved the twist at the end of Binary, and it took me by surprise. When you write are you someone who plots out meticulously or are you more free-form in your ideas?
JJC: I don't plot out my books. I write like I read... I sit down at the computer and it spills out. I am glad I have been blessed with long fingers so my hands can keep the pace of my mind, most of the time. The end of Binary surprised me to, but it just wrote itself and when it was done I loved it.
Me: Binary has a curiously parallel culture to ours existing on another world. Is that concept, that an alien culture resembles ours in some ways but not others, something you'll explore in future books?
JJC: Yes, you will learn in the rest of the series that there are reasons the culture on the planet Glise resembles ours. I believe I will write more books about aliens like us, because I really believe that is fact. In my mind I truly feel we aren't alone in the universe. Even more I think there are human like aliens out there living lives much like ours. Who knows maybe someday we will really meet them.
Me: Ok, fun question. Which is best, Twilight or Hunger Games, and why?
JJC: Hmmm- good question. This is a tough one for me because I LOVE YA ROMANCE. In Twilight the romance rocked! It also opened up a new genre to the world that never really existed before. Paranormal YA Romance ... But, with that said... Hunger Games would still come out as number one in the comparison because the author is a better writer overall.
Me: After the glut of paranormal YA romances on the market where do you see YA fiction going next?
JJC: I hope they sway to sci-fi... lol. Honestly, I think paranormal romances are here to stay. I think YA readers don't like to be treated like children. They want to read about teens put in adult situations and thrive in them. I believe if someone can capture that concept in their writing, they could create the next fad in YA literature.
Me: Last question- what are you reading at present and what are you working on now? (ok, that's two questions)
JJC: Lately, I have been exploring indie authors on Amazon. I have found some amazing authors and books that are self published. Currently, I am finishing up my third book in my Binary series. I am also working on a YA adventure/romance called Genealogy where some teens discover Earths family tree.
Thanks to Jen for a great interview. You can look at her book voa the following links:
Amazon UK Kindle here.
Amazon US Kindle right here...
My Goodreads review is right here, that's it, just click the link. My Amazon one has disappeared :-(