Book Review: Toxic by Lydia Kang

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Title: Toxic
Author: Lydia Kang
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: November 6, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

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Indiebound // Entangled Pubishing

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Toxic
Lydia Kang
Entangled Teen, November 2018
ISBN 978-1-64063-424-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Cyclo, the first and largest biological ship of its kind, is dying. A small crew of mercenaries have handed over the rights to their life to document the death of the ship, but the abandoned ship is anything but abandoned—one girl has been left behind.

Hana has known nothing but the isolation of a single room and the secret that has kept her there for seventeen years. When she meets Fennec, the boy assigned to watch her, she realizes that there is a world she has yet to experience but she is doomed to never meet.

When crew members begin mysteriously dying, Hana and Fenn realize that they are racing against the death of the ship to find a way to survive—unless someone kills them even before Hana’s truly had a chance to live.

I couldn’t help thinking of Kass Morgan’s The 100 when I first saw the description of this book. That’s not a bad thing as I’m a big fan of both the book series and the TV adaptation although they bear only a moderate resemblance to each other, as you might expect. At any rate, thinking of that series definitely made me want to try this and I’m very glad it did.

Imagine spending the entire nearly 17 years of your life secreted away in a 10-foot wide room from everyone except your mother on board a bioship in outer space . Logistically, that’s not as impossible as it might seem because we’re not talking about what we envision as a space vessel today; Cyclo is three kilometers wide so there’s plenty of room for hiding. Hana spends 48 to 72 hours at a time in a sleeping state so, when she wakes up one day to discover that it’s been a week since she last saw her scientist mother, she’s naturally upset and full of questions. Cyclo, usually quite willing to converse in her own way, offers no explanation other than, “Your mother is not here” and is clearly reluctant to open the door for Hana but she finally does so. Very quickly, panic begins to set in as Hana realizes Cyclo is not verbalizing as she usually does…and there are no people anywhere on board the ship. What Cyclo tells her then is the most frightening thing Hana can imagine, that her mother has abandoned her.

When Hana sees the light of a ship in the distance, approaching Cyclo, she’s sure her mother is coming back but, in fact, the ship is bringing a small crew on a suicide mission to gather data from the dying ship. The moment Hana and Fenn spot each other, not precisely a friendly meeting, everything changes for both of them.

Ms. Kang has done a wonderful job with her setting, particularly in making Cyclo seem so very real and truly vivid with her emotional colors and her ability to use her ectoplasm in so many ways. In fact, I’d have to say that Cyclo is a character just as central to the story as are Kana and Fenn. I also like that Hana is of Korean descent and that the mercenaries are all quite diverse, too. Hana’s rampant insecurities and Fenn’s roguish personality mesh well together and the author makes them, and their story, exciting and compelling. When all is said and done, this book is high on my list of favorite books read in 2018.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

About the Author

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. Her poetry and non-fiction have been published in JAMA, The Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Journal of General Internal Medicine, and Great Weather for Media. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband and three children.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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