I feel like I’ve been starting a lot of my reviews this way but I went into this excited. Like this book is everything I could use in my life right now. A strange and rare condition that kills people before their 24th birthday. A mystery that’s attached to this so who knows, maybe none of them are actually crazy after all. And having to find out if the hallucinations, which are part of the symptoms are actually that or something only people with the condition can tap into. Honestly, there is just so much win here. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting big things. Suspense, mystery, and impending doom are very high up on the must-read list. This one is YA though so that brings certain tropes with it. Which is fine. I read a lot of that as well. But in this case, it just came with the things I don’t like which is unfortunate.
I only got a quarter in but I’m sure what I’ve written is in the grey area of plot spoilers especially since there’s 75 percent more to go.
For starters, I find it very hard to believe that not only is Jet with a condition he knows nothing about but no one has told him. How do they all know and treat him differently because of it and not bring this up? Furthermore, how does his best friend know and not tell him? Being cursed to die before age 24 is rare but it is not so rare no one knows. Everyone at Skylight University knows. Enough people have fallen prey to it to be a thing even if there aren’t enough people for Jet to have bumped into one during his lifetime. Not knowing is convenient for the plot but it’s exceptionally hard to believe that no one, not even the people at the home as he is an orphan, would have told him.
So after that paragraph of this doesn’t make sense the world was fun. I love it. It’s clearly defined. I even like the subtle hints on the mystery as it unfolds. But there were other things. Like the prologue shows someone succumbing to the affliction. But the author does such a good job of explaining what is going on that it almost seems unnecessary to show it. What happens could’ve happened to the main character and instead of succumbing to it he could’ve escaped his fate and that would’ve shown it better than having a character introduced for the sole purpose of setting up what type of hallucinations exist at the end before one disappears. And then she is only mentioned as a one-off having gone on before the term began.
Then there are other things like Jet always making the wrong decisions. I’m just going to roll with this one and might not bring up other issues I had because this one was the most prevalent. For instance, when his only friend suggests that he probably talk to the other students at the school that have it he gets all defensive in a ‘Who do you think you are to tell me what to do’, kind of way. It’s a good suggestion and Jet has already admitted to himself he wants to know more yet hasn’t bothered to ask around or seek others out. So, when his friend offers up a perfectly logical solution to help him, a friend who was also an orphan from his same town, his reaction is dismissiveness and anger. And then, to top it all off, he ends up following up on the suggestion and doesn’t apologise for shutting down the help from his one and only friend.
Now, this could be the same incident, I can’t remember, but his friend gives him a very impassioned speech about how he respects him. How when faced with being teased and somewhat of an outcast he always found a way to get things done. And at the end of this speech he offers up some advice and Jet’s response is ‘So you’re saying I need your help’. WTF. I had to reread it two times to see if I could find something in the speech that even mildly hinted his friend was implying he didn’t need help. Couldn’t find it so it was a rather out of left field assumption. And, he still does what his friend suggests so he just likes to be angry for no reason and then do the thing that caused the tension in the first place and not apologise for being so defensive.
It doesn’t end here. Apparently, someone who went missing ten years ago is guiding him. Through this guidance, he’s led to her tablet. Something that shouldn’t even exist seeing as she supposedly fell prey to the affliction. He can’t break into this tablet but her younger sister is a lecturer. She might be able to crack into it. So they meet in secret and instead of him doing what a normal human would do handing it over to see if she could hack into it and make sense of the information he found during the process of being led to the tablet, he pretends he doesn’t have it. Gives the teacher some stories and it is supposed to seem like his tricking her in some cunning way to help him but it’s more annoying than anything else. Her very reason for being in the school is to find out more about her sister’s disappearance. They are on the same mission. He doesn’t need to convince her so why is he playing mind games? Furthermore, the information he needs could be on the tablet and he can’t get into it. Pretending he doesn’t have it almost to the point where she wants to get up and leave makes no sense when she went out of her way to meet him and is willing to help and he needs her more than she needs him. It was just an extremely frustrating scene to read especially when he ends up handing it over like he should’ve from the start. Honestly, I would’ve respected her more if she did leave and Jet had to deal with the fact he was handling this badly.
So far Jet gets angry when he receives genuine help and plays mind games with people who already have committed to helping him and all this is just adding up to making him seem stubborn and arrogant instead of smart and resourceful.
This isn’t the only incident with the teacher. Knowing that he suffers from delusions/hallucinations and that she is definitely going against the rules helping him, he decides to chase one to prove a point. Even when she pleads with him not to as being his lecturer she is responsible for him to a degree. He runs of anyway. Was there some sort of plot piece revealed… yes. But the problem I had with this was when he meets her later during the day or week, can’t remember, she again tells him how he shouldn’t have run of, how much trouble he could’ve got her into and next time don’t be so impulsive and crazy. He then gives her some speech about being able to take care of himself and, yeah. That’s it. She apologises to him when he was clearly wrong. She didn’t even see what he saw which made him run off so after that confirmation it could’ve been a hallucination after all. And to take it even further I don’t remember him telling her the details of what he found when he ran off. Where’s the accountability for just doing what he wants? Even after being faced with the reality of the situation he still doesn’t get it and readers are supposed to accept the teacher’s apology when he should be apologising. She is going out on a limb to help him and this is the treatment she gets for it.
This type of attitude doesn’t end here. There’s one more person with the affliction that he can’t find. She doesn’t want to be found and on more than one occasion before he even started the school she has made this clear. A loner by choice which is her right. So for weeks, maybe months, even though he has a teacher a friend and two others ready to dig in and do some research he keeps them all waiting so he can find this girl. The problem here is before 24 is just that, before. The other students are older than him so are closer but for all we know they could disappear any time before 24. Jet himself is already hallucinating, maybe, we don’t know yet. But instead of getting to work on something that is this important he is keeping people who don’t have to help but chose to waiting, because he has to get this last person on the team. The fact this goes on for so long devalues the importance of the mission because clearly it can wait for days and days, and also proves again it’s all about Jet. Since he wants this person the actual job of getting answers is now unimportant because what he wants he wants.
The real killer here is that one of the plot moving probably not hallucinations leads him to her secret spot. I’m going to step away here for a sec to say i’m leaning towards not hallucinations because the things he keeps finding are way too plot moving to get to the end and have to deal with some sort of Wizard of Oz it was all just a dream nonsense. Back to the point he finds her spot she makes it very clear she wants nothing to do with the situation and wants to be alone. And in another withholding information event, he doesn’t tell her how he found her. For all we know that’s how she found the place too so it’s odd that when trying to figure things out he is again withholding information that could lead to figuring it out.
When faced with her no Jet, because no one says no to Jet, then threatens to reveal her secret hiding place. This was when I gave up. The blatant disregard of personal boundaries, compiled with him keeping the others waiting to get to her and she says no like they all said she would, on top of all the other things I’ve said was the last ‘This is all about Jet’ moment I could take when he made her come by force. I couldn’t help but think if he had been doing things with the others while looking for her he would’ve had collateral to offer, information, things to entice her to come along for the cause. As it was he had nothing but stubborn will and then, much like he did with the teacher when he pretended not to have the tablet, he resorts to forcing people to do things and it’s supposed to come across as clever. She said no, life sucks, move on.
The reason I’m so bothered by this is it’s not unique. I’ve read more than my share of YA where the hero just makes the decisions they think are right the entire novel. Just stubborn defiance for hundreds of pages almost like the other characters’ opinions and emotions don’t matter. And then when it all works out in the end there is never a learning curve. The hero saved the day so almost getting people killed, turning friends into enemies, and sometimes turning friends in camp against each other is fine because, in the end, they saved the day. Where’s the accountability?
So much was spent on making him seem clever but for me, it just came across as stubborn and dismissive of the other cast’s feelings. And I liked all the subtle hints to the plot that got sidetracked for weeks so he could get this girl on the team. They definitely gave good hints to what might really be going on. The problem there, of course, is that Jet never wants to reveal anything. He doesn’t have answers and at least three other people are experiencing the same thing as him. One is even connected to someone who died. Why is he holding on to things as if the answers will manifest on their own? Everything about the way Jet behaved seemed to hinder the ultimate goal of solving the mystery of this disease, virus, affliction or whatever it is he has and I found this to be frustrating and odd both in character development and as a plot moving device. The mystery was what kept me reading, and I tried but I had to step back and make a choice on how much more of this stubborn, I make all the decisions and you have to follow me, decision making I could put up with for the greater good of finishing a novel. I obviously quit. The scene with him blackmailing the girl and essentially taking away her freedom was the last straw.
For a book that had all the makings of what I love in a story, the get to the end of the road at all costs, no one else’s approach but mine matters, singular, mostly stubborn forward motion of the lead was just too much in this one and I couldn’t relate to the main character. And because there was so much of him even in a quarter of a book the others didn’t have enough page time to shine as good side characters. And I touched on the sports thing in the video but this review is too long as is so that’s where it shall stay.
Overall I was just triggered by Jet and wanted the things he saw, and hopefully the things other people saw to be discussed and researched and dug into but for the first quarter of the book he wasted a lot of time holding on to things, ignoring advice then doing the same thing he ignored, and keeping the team waiting to find someone instead of taking action and moving forward. And instead of it giving slow burn feels his choices, as I’ve said already, felt counterproductive and that kind of slow was more grating than exciting. I just couldn’t attach to him and I felt I might have liked the other characters if they were more developed. It was a rough read for me so I had to just accept that and move on.