In DeYoung’s debut novel, climate change is ravaging Earth, and the Exo Project is sending crews on one-way voyages to find planets that might sustain life. Having volunteered for the project, 17-year-old Matthew Tilson and his shipmates on the Corvus awaken in orbit around an Earthlike planet and proceed to explore its surface. They’re the canaries in the coal mine: if they don’t die, they’ll contact Earth and colonists will be sent. The planet is radioactive, but, oddly, this doesn’t affect them. It’s also inhabited by a matriarchal society of telepathic aliens who are human in everything but color, causing immediate problems with Matthew’s xenophobic crewmember, Sam. Shifting attention among multiple characters, the third-person narrative concentrates on the growing love between Matthew and the native ruler, Kiva, and on the mystery of the aliens’ still-active Ancestors. Some odd plot maneuvers (including how easily the Corvus is retrofitted for a needed return trip) can feel like a letdown—this is perhaps a better pick for readers looking for extraterrestrial romance than for diehard SF fans. Ages 12–up. Agent: John Rudolph, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Apr.)
This fast-paced, sharply written multiple-perspective YA science-fiction debut opens on a future Earth ravaged by solar radiation. Desperate for money to save his sick mother, seventeen-year-old Matthew agrees to participate in the Exo Project, a government plan to save the human race by flying across the galaxy in search of a habitable planet for resettlement. He thinks he's been given a death sentence: 100 years in cryostasis, followed by a quick death on some barren world. But then he lands on Gle'ah, discovering the strange, beautiful creatures who live there, including Kiva, the captivating teenage girl who leads her planet's matriarchal society. Kiva views Matthew as a threat and for good reason—if he tells Earth that he's found a suitable planet, it will mean the end of her people's way of life. But then Kiva and Matthew discover an emotional connection they never expected—and as they begin to delve into the secrets of Matthew's mission and the dark truth behind the seeming paradise of Gle'ah, the choices they make will have consequences for both of their worlds.
"The Exo Project has a...fantastical premise that works very well in DeYoung's execution. (He) does an excellent job of creating a fully-realized society...and he allows the relationship between Kiva and Matthew to develop naturally....the book's greatest strength is its willingness to take on such issues as climate change, bigotry, sexism, violence, and responsibility for the common good." -VOYA
"The world building (in the Exo Project) is impeccable, with backstories fully developed...that show the folly and weaknesses of humanity even across the galaxies. The complexities of warring loyalties are played out through the accessible perspectives of Matthew and Kiva...This will be a treat for sci-fi fans looking to settle into a lengthy novel and really explore a futuristic plot." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"First-time author DeYoung offers straightforward yet effective storytelling, which makes for a refreshing change from science fiction with convoluted and multilevel plots.... this is an enjoyable read with abundant STEM connections." -Booklist
"This debut novel will give science fiction readers a fresh take on the genre. Deyoung... presents a great science fiction introduction for those reluctant to the genre." -School Library Connection
Gr 9 Up—Heat and radiation have risen to severe levels on ecologically bankrupt Earth. The global government, OmniCore, has developed a plan, the Exo Project, to find a new, habitable planet. Desperate for money, 17-year-old Matthew enters a lottery and winds up being cryogenically frozen so that he can join a three-person crew who are sent to Planet H-240, 100 light years away. The story is told primarily from two viewpoints: those of Matthew and Kiva, one of the Vagri natives on planet H-240 (known locally as Gle'ah). Matthew and Kiva have some depth as characters, but most of the supporting cast members are thinly drawn. The novel also lacks creative world-building: Gle'ah seems very similar to Earth, with breathable air, grassy prairies, and comfortable temperatures. The Vagri are so similar to humans in temperament and physical construction that mating is possible. There are points of tension: Will Matthew alert OmniCore that Planet H-240 will support human life? Will the Vagri outcasts kill the Strangers? VERDICT This romantic space adventure lacks full development of the characters and the settings. A secondary selection for most libraries.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX
Can humans settle another planet before it's too late?Earth is slowly dying. To fund cancer treatment for his mother, currently in cryogenic stasis, 17-year-old Matthew volunteers to be cryogenically frozen and sent 100 light-years away to one of thousands of potentially habitable planets. There's no return—he'll message Earth the results, and if the planet's unviable, he'll take a suicide pill. On Gle'ah, Matthew's destination planet, 17-year-old Kiva leads a pre-industrial, matriarchal society. Debut novelist DeYoung crams in multitudes of plot points—cross-universe, destined romance, politics and violence on Gle'ah, weapons of mass destruction, telepathy, magical healing, drugs, and a mass shooting. A multiperspective narrative approach gives readers broad information but contains only mild characterization; main characters, especially Matthew, read like place holders. Dunne, a middle-aged black woman on Matthew's team, specializes in particle physics and medicine but goes largely unconsulted regarding the plot's pivotal decision; instead, white teen Matthew makes the core decision alone. Kiva's people are "exactly like humans in every way" except for their gray skin, resulting in a culture of not-quite-white people without characters of color. The scientific/religious explanations for phenomena on Gle'ah will remind readers of Star Wars' midi-chlorians—and not in a good way. See Beth Revis' Across the Universe (2011) for cryogenics and Phoebe North's Starglass (2013) for romance destined across the stars. It's fine in pace and flow but disintegrates under scrutiny. (Science fiction. 13-16)