Nirvana - J.R. Stewart

I could have sworn I'd posted this review already, but apparently not. Well, I hadn't posted enough late reviews today, anyway...

 

When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?
Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized - even visits with Andrew.
Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.
Nirvana is a fast-paced, page-turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so. Are you ready to enter Nirvana?

 

This book was a great start for a new author, though there were a few small things that niggled at me.

 

From the get go, I was completely drawn into this world. The action moved really quickly and it was really easy to stay involved in this story. There was a clear plot with tension on all pages.

 

The premise of the book as described by the blurb promised a lot more virtual reality than delivered. In the book, people would shell out half of their weekly paycheque for fifteen minutes in Nirvana, the VR program, which honestly isn't really enough time to have an enveloping experience or to keep the people subdued.

 

I felt like too many things were going. The author had a lot of ideas but didn't manage to focus them down into one concise line. There were a few details I thought could have been explained in much more depth--the importance of the bees, the bubbles in other countries, and even the setting--I didn't realise we were in Ontario until halfway through the book.

 

Kenders honestly was too young. I get that Stewart is going for the YA audience, but Kenders is basically a 24-year-old who is being told she is 17. We should stop lying to Kenders and just admit that she is 24 before she has identity issues. She's known her fiancée for three years, meaning they met when she was 14. Excuse my cynicism, but unless this is a whole book about first love, I'm not going to buy a 17-year-old's undying devotion. There's too much sex for her to be 17. And oh, her fiancée is 26. Sorry, but that's creepy. He had come out of a 5-year-long relationship, so that means Kenders was what, 9 when he was falling in love with the first girl? Eh. These are all generalizations, of course, but as they weren't the focus of the story, I found them a complete distraction.

 

I also wasn't really clear on how Kenders was being a punk star--if she was only known to people in Nirvana or if she had made a name for herself outside and then been subdued into work. (And if the latter, how had she managed to go to school? And if the former, were they experiencing concerts in their fifteen minute time slots? I'm confused.)

 

There were a couple of characters who also really confused me as I thought they were on different sides. Maybe one was 'deciding' but I felt like it was very convenient to have double agents in high places. Also, Serge is supposedly Kenders's childhood best friend, but she doesn't seem to even remember he exists until he shows up. A little too convenient, in my opinion.

 

The plot in general seemed rather predetermined, and by the end I didn't feel like Kenders was really all that vital to the movement. I was unsure why she really mattered, and why the author was choosing to tell her story out of all these other people.

 

I was a little disappointed by the ending. It was all racing along beautifully, and then the author threw in a curveball that was, in my opinion, unnecessary, as if she had realized that everything had been wrapped up a little too neatly and she wanted to make us read the next book. It was inelegant.

 

A lot of small things bothered me in this book, but on the whole it was a really good book and anyone who enjoys tense thrillers should enjoy this one. I think Stewart has a lot of potential as a storyteller.