December 22, 2013

Review: Control by Lydia Kang

Control by Lydia Kang
Series: Control, #1
Published: December 24, 2013, Dial Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Source: From publicist via Netgalley
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I draw back, considering the threat. I’m never one to cause trouble. I don’t rock the boat, because I don’t know how to swim. But this isn’t about me. Dad’s voice replays in my mind.
Take care of yourself. Stay safe, no matter what.

Control is a different sort of book, one far outside my traditional reading tastes. I have been making an effort to read a greater variety of genres, however, and so when I was given the opportunity to review this one I took it. And I’m glad that I did. For the most part, I found myself quite impressed with Kang’s debut.

Sister Zelia and Dylia are used to being on the road. Their father’s job as a scientist requires them to move to a new part of their futuristic United States every year or so. But when their father informs them of their latest move, the girls barely have any time to prepare for their departure, and then their father’s death causes their plans to come to an abrupt halt. Orphaned Zel and Dyl are taken in the foster care system and subsequently split up.

Zel finds herself living in Carus, a group home for misfit teens who all seem to possess extraordinary powers. She learns that Marka, the adult in charge at Carus, has snatched each teen away from the greedy grip of Aureus, which is the very same place that has taken Dyl. Although Aureus is also a home for teens with special powers, it seeks to exploit their powers. And so Zel, the normal human living among extraordinary people, must search for a way to save her little sister.

Let me first say that Control puts the “science” in “science fiction.” I say that with complete seriousness. Far too often have I come across books labeled as science fiction that have barely an ounce of truth behind their scientific facts. I knew that I would get something better through Control; in fact, I expected it. Author Lydia Kang has her MD and has helped other authors add more scientific validity to their own works. While I do not have a scientific background myself, all scientific aspects of Control seemed plausible and I had no trouble in believing them to be true.

Zel herself has a penchant for science, and so much of the book deals with science in one form or another. She finds herself surrounded humans with incredible abilities abilities that are not based on magic but on genetic engineering. Marka can smell emotions, Cy’s skin has a miraculous healing capacity, Vera’s skin can perform photosynthesis, Hex has an extra set of arms, and Wilbert has an extra head. Even her own sister is the apparent possessor of atypical genes. In comparison to them, Zel believes herself to be painfully ordinary.

Nevertheless, Zel is quite the atypical heroine. At sixteen, she remains incredibly underdeveloped physically. She suffers from Ondine’s Curse, which is a respiratory disorder where her body has trouble breathing on its own. She’s a rule-follower through and through, idolizes her father, and is willing to do whatever it takes to rescue her sister. Her love for Dyl, in many ways her polar opposite, felt like a spot-on depiction of sibling relationships. Zel can be a bit too self-deprecating at times, but she’s genuine and I enjoyed the fact that she has such a strong passion for science.

I suppose I should also mention the burgeoning romance that develops between Zel and Cy. I actually liked it. Me, who has problems with the majority of relationships depicted in YA novels. The rawness and complexity of their feelings for themselves and with regard to one another was compelling and very well-written. In Control, Kang takes two misfits whose lives are anything but normal and is able to make their relationship itself very believable.

My issues with this book stem primarily from the fact that I’m not a fan of stories about humans with genetic/superhuman abilities, apparently (I should have realized that earlier as I’m also not a fan of the X-Men franchise). As much as I found Zel’s adoptive family fascinating, I also found myself feeling a bit uncomfortable by it all. Even Zel’s physical immaturity was a bit too out-there for me. Perhaps the plausibility of so many aspects of this book also affected me; this is not the kind of reality I’d want for myself or others.

Although Control was not quite my cup of tea, I still am glad that I had the opportunity to read this book and am looking forward to its sequel, Catalyst. The characters are well-crafted and Kang writes very well. It is written with a specific audience in mind, however, and I cannot quite count myself as part of that (at least, not yet). The fact that I still enjoyed my experience reading this speaks volumes to the quality of the story, in my mind. For those who do enjoy more scientifically oriented stories and stories about extraordinary humans, this is not a book to miss.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this review copy from the publicist, but that in no way affected my opinion. The quote is from an advanced copy of the novel and is subject to change in the final edition.  
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. "Author Lydia Kang has her MD and has helped other authors add more scientific validity to their own works" I want to do that! Gah, I'm so excited about this book, but that release date is so awkward, haha, I have no idea when I'll be able to pick it up, but some day!

    1. Yeah it is definitely an awkward release date lol.
      And really? That would be so cool if you could do that someday. I am jealous of people who have such diverse interests like writing/books and interests are all pretty similar. I do hope you can get to reading this soon, Anya!

  2. I usually like my science fiction reads to have genuine and plausible scientific concepts in them, and I'm glad to hear that Control delivers in that aspect. It's also reassuring to know that you liked the romance! Even though you can't count yourself as one of the intended readers for this book, I'm glad that the reading experience was a fairly enjoyable one overall. I hope Catalyst lives up to your expectations. :)

    1. Oh yes it definitely does! Thank you, Sam! I hope that you end up reading and enjoying this one yourself.

  3. The weird thing is that this book has all the elements I look for in a good read, but I'm just not drawn to it. Huh. I'll have to check it out, though, especially with a good romance and real science elements. BTW, enjoy Days of Blood and Starlight - it's seriously just fantastic! :)

    1. Oh Keertana you really need to give this a try. I could see you enjoying this one! I know what you mean though, I have some books I'm pretty sure I'd love but have been reluctant to read for one reason or another.
      And I did finish DoBaS - it was great!

  4. I don't know a lot about this book, but I really like that it is truly science-y. I've actually become quite confused by the term "science fiction" because it seems to mean anything set in space or future world, even if it's all fantasy based (like These Broken Stars, which I liked, but felt was more fantasy - have you read that). Anyway, I love that this book is based in plausible reality. Or at least it's explained in a way that makes it sound that way. Unlike you, I ALWAYS want a romance, and the fact that you liked this one speaks volumes. Still, I'm not sure if I'm ready to jump into this series, but I'm curious enough to have it on my radar for the future. I'm assuming there's a sequel? Did this book seem pretty complete in itself?

    1. Yeah I do think that scifi isn't well delineated when it comes to YA. So this was a pleasant surprise for sure.
      haha I know! I am such a weirdo when it comes to YA romance. But this one is good!
      And I believe this is part one in a duology. There was a definite arc in this book that wad fulfilled but still many loose ends that can be better answered.


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