Author: Anne Osterlund
Release: May 14th 2009
Secrets stand in their way, danger lurks in their hearts
Aerin Renning is a scarred fugitive, Dane Madousin a rebellious son of privilege. On the surface, they have nothing in common. But the two most competitive freshmen at Academy 7 share an undiscovered bond. Both harbor a dangerous secret that threatens their own destruction. And while their safety depends on their staying apart, the two are inexplicably drawn to each other. Even as unknown forces conspire to separate them, their competition turns to friendship, and their friendship to romance. Now not only their lives—but their hearts—are at stake. To survive, the two must unite all their knowledge, skills, and gifts to uncover a secret bigger than either could have imagined. A secret as big as the entire universe...
This is one of the few.... perhaps only (my memory really sucks sometimes) science fiction books I've read. And loved every page of it. The cover art and synopsis don't really give much indication that this book is science fiction, but whether you're a sci-fi or not, this is a book for every fan of YA.
Aerin Renning and Dane Madousin are invited to attend the most-exclusive school in the Universe: Academy 7. They accept the honour, but both are running or hiding away from something - .harbouring painful secrets which they've tightly wrapped in an iron-clad prison around their hearts that in the end, can only be unlocked by each other.
Aerin desperately needs to blend in among the other citizens of the Alliance and hide the dark past she's running from. For a girl of such a young age, the past 6 years of her life have been a horrific ordeal. She can't afford to be found out, the consequences are extreme. But then, she didn't count on ever befriending Dane Madousin.
Danie is the son of the the General of the Alliance. Meaning his father is verrrry powerful. The father and son do not get along and despite Academy 7 having it's awe-inspired reputation, the General is furious when he learns Dane has accepted the invitation and is already a few weeks into his education. He has a bad grudge against the school for some unknown reason, something that adds to the developing mystery. Aerin and Dane quickly lead the pack among the students in terms of academics. The pair absolutely wipe the floor of any competition in combat class. Aerin in particular polishes that floor of Dane ;) That is one girl you do not want to mess with in a dark alley. It's no surprise they're paired up to be training partners.
Aerin is extraordinarily talented, her intelligence and fighting abilities far outstrip the majority of her classmates. But there's the times where she is absolutely clueless. In Debate particularly, Dane trumps her. Simple historical facts and that she didn't even know how to turn on a computer, when five minutes later she bypassed the entire security system on the very same computer. Dane notices and it's not too long after that he uncovers part of her secret.
The mystery develops at a comfortable pace. Anne Osterlund sprinkles clues along at various intervals - actually, I remember something she wrote about Aerin from Dane's POV, which I thought nothing of until we see a memory (called a Simulation) near the end of the book and literally a few pages before something big is revealed I had my "AH HA!" moment where I remembered what Dane observed early on and I was spot on. Okay, I'm making a big deal over nothing. It was one-word clue. But... I still figured it out before it was revealed :)
What I loved the most about Academy 7 was the relationship between Aerin and Dane. In a genre where there are quite a few books I've read where the girl and guy fall head over heels in love with each other before the 5th chapter, the pace and realism of which Aerin and Dane's relationship progressed was really nice. The transition from dislike, to rivals, to tentative friends, to a beautiful friendship hinting at something more to... well, I don't want to spoil the ending for you! Don't dive into this book expecting an explosive, hot and heavy romance. It's not that, it's much deeper. I love the way their connection to one another unfolds. At times it seems so fragile because the characters themselves are fragile, yet at the same time, they're incredibly strong. Much stronger than any of their classmates. Physically and emotionally.
They need one another to unlock the mystery of the past, their parents and what's really going on outside the Alliance. Along the way they learn to trust, to open the window to their souls so they other can see in. I loved the way it progressed and the ending was perfect. I am really, really, really hoping there's a book 2. I did a quick search on Google and read something about a possible trilogy, but nothing definite. A trilogy would be fantastic - a book for each year at the Academy? I want to see Aerin and Dane's story further explored!
I will definitely be checking out Anne's other books!
Author's website: http://anneosterlund.com/