Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Neptune Project

The Neptune Project
Polly Holyoke
Hyperion Books, 2013  341 pgs
Grades 5-8
Science Fiction

Earth is in trouble. Because of the devastating effects of war, destruction of the environment, and military control resources are scarce and what is left is being poorly managed. Humans are living under a police state with no personal freedoms and dwindling food supplies. Teenager Nere has always been strange. She is more comfortable in the water than out and would rather spend time with her dolphin friends than humans. Moreover, she has amazing telepathic skills and can see brilliantly underwater. When the government decides to destroy her fishing village, Nere's mother confesses that she has been genetically enhanced to survive underwater. Nere and two other young people from her village undergo a painful transformation and begin their lives as undersea renegades with the help of their dolphin friends of whom they communicate with telepathically for protection. Neve and her friends meet other young people who have also undergone the transformation and the new group establishes an uneasy alliance in order to safely travel to the rendezvous point where Nere's scientist father is waiting for them. Danger, surprises, and innocent romance lurk as Nere and the other hybrid teens journey through the sea with the dolphin pod in order to reach a safe haven and begin life as they now know it.

Holyoke offers a fresh twist on the dystopian genre currently sweeping books for young people. Humanity is pushed underwater in an effort to survive. It is a great premise and makes for an exciting and original story. Holyoke offers a lot of action and adventure. She is not afraid to kill off characters and other characters, thought to be dead, pop back up as surprise plot twists. Nere is brave and capable, although she grows into her abilities as the book progresses, emerging from shy misfit into a strong leader. She enters into a love triangle with the group's medic and also the handsome misfit who harbors a secret (which is revealed by book's end). The romance stays light and is not the main motivation of the story. Environmental themes abound and Holyoke's love of ocean life becomes clear as the pages unfold. I learned things about dolphins that I never knew and grew to appreciate these playful and intelligent creatures. Even though the main character is a girl, there are plenty of male characters and The Neptune Project will also be enjoyed by boys. A sequel was released last year called The Neptune Challenge which continues the story of Nere and her friends and gives readers a place to go when this volume is finished.

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