I recently read and enjoyed Dangerous by Shannon Hale, which I later found out received a luke-warm reception upon its release in 2014. I rarely do this, but upon finishing the book, I logged on to Goodreads to see what other readers thought of the novel. Huge. Mistake. While I thought this novel was a rip-roaring, sci-fi adventure that… sure, had some kinks to work out, others were reluctant to rate it one or two stars (if they were even able to make it to the end of the novel). I was left wondering if we read the same book.
Released: March 2014
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Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There’s no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.
That’s right. I admit it. I’ve never read her beloved book, Goose Girl, although it’s been on my e-reader for a couple of years. Nor have I read any of the other Books of Bayern, the Princess Academy, or Austenland. Which basically means I went in to this book without any expectations. I have a feeling that’s why I fared better than many other readers.
Dangerous was just too ambitious of a story to tell in 400 pages. Many readers complained of plot holes, but I’m not sure I perceived them the same way; I just felt there were certain parts of the story that were underdeveloped or introduced too abruptly. For example, we are introduced to something called the “Jumper Virus” in Part Two, which is 130 pages into the story, and then the “Jumper Virus” is the main focus for Part Three of the book, which is maybe 260 pages into the story. Because the “Jumper Virus” was such a prominent feature of the plot, I felt like Hale should have started to introduce the readers to the virus in Part One so that there was more cohesion throughout the story.
I also felt that if Dangerous was a duology, Hale would have had the opportunity to develop her characters a little more. In Part One, there was a lot of emphasis on the hot and cold relationship between Maisie and Wilder, but there was very little interaction between Maisie and her Astronaut Camp team members. While I enjoyed reading about Maisie and Wilder, I really wanted to get to know Maisie’s team members because they play such a prominent role in Part Two of the novel. They were hardly mentioned in Part One, so like the “Jumper Virus”, their involvement in the story line happened abruptly.
That being said, overall I thought this book was imaginative. I’ve never read a superhero novel before (graphic novels excluded), so that was a fun experience for me. Was the Fireteam reminiscent of the Fantastic Four? Maybe. Do I care? Nope. I also really enjoyed reading about Astronaut Camp because I was the eight-year-old watching Wild & Crazy Kids on Nickelodeon wishing I could participate so that I could win a chance to go to Space Camp in Alabama. And finally– dem aliens! They were adrenaline junkies with a sweet tooth, and SPOILER! they weren’t here to reap all of our resources, which was bizarre and unique but also kind of disturbing. This should have been a duology because I wanted more from Hale; I was actually having a lot of fun with Dangerous.
There were a lot of vicious comments about how calling this novel “Sci-fi” was a joke, because clearly it’s “Romance”. Did we even read the same book? Because…this isn’t a romance novel. That’s not to say that romance wasn’t an aspect of this novel, because yes, Maisie’s relationship with Wilder is prominent in this story.
I’m not going to pretend to like the relationship between Maisie and Wilder because I don’t like Wilder. He may be intelligent enough to challenge Maisie, and he may be carefree enough to break Maisie out of her shell, but he’s also kind of a jerk, and his shift from international playboy to parent-approved boyfriend material is not believable. For the record? Maisie and Luther, all the way. [Side note: This isn’t a love-triangle either. It’s unrequited love. Maisie doesn’t fancy Luther, and she’s clear about their boundaries from the start.]
Despite not liking Maisie and Wilder as a couple, watching Maisie’s perception of their relationship throughout the course of the novel was interesting. Maisie lived a sheltered life, and the only boy who paid attention to her was her long-time pal, Luther. But, when Maisie attends Astronaut Camp, she catches the eye of Wilder. She has a hard time navigating her feelings for him because…well, she’s never experienced them before. She dwells on it because that’s how she processes things.
Fast forward to half way through the novel, and Maisie’s mind is preoccupied by the thought of a renegade Wilder quite often. A lot of readers had a problem with this because Maisie was willing to leave her family and travel across the country to be with him. But, I wondered if they remembered that Wilder’s super power essentially makes him a homing beacon for the Fireteam. Maisie struggles more to understand her feelings for Wilder– does she genuinely love him, or is this an effect of the super powers?
Finally, by the end of the novel, Maisie has a clear head about her relationship with Wilder. She understands the difference between love and infatuation, and she calls her relationship what it is.
There were times when I thought I loved him. But I see now that I didn’t really. Attraction, infatuation, and consternation do not love make. I don’t know if I love him now, but I like him so much the joy is exquisitely painful. And, this too, is new.*
And you know what? I can totally get on board with that. Shannon Hale, I tip my hat to you on that one.
Ultimately, I recognize that Dangerous has its flaws. But you know what? That didn’t stop me from devouring this book in two sittings. It was fast-paced, action-packed, and just plain ol’ fun. I unapologetically give this book three stars!