Title: Zenn Scarlett
Author: Christian Schoon
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she’s learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she’s feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn’t enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she’s started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can’t deny what she’s feeling.
Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what’s happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she’s actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients… or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year….
For me, there were pretty much only two good things about Christian Schoon’s debut: the cover, and Zenn’s alien pet, Katie, who sounds like the cutest thing ever. Other than that, though, I really was not a fan of this debut.
For the majority of the book I just felt like there was very little plot besides things with the animals, and all the action seemed to center around the creatures rather than the characters. I also felt like I knew from the beginning who was behind some of the things that happen right when they began.
It seemed to me like Zenn was more of a vehicle for the author to explore the world than an actual character. I found Zenn very boring, as we don’t learn much about her other than the death of her mother and her love of the animals. I also thought it was odd that there wasn’t a lot of internal with Zenn, and when there was, it was almost always about the animals.
I also didn’t feel like I ever got into the whole animal rights thing that’s the main focus of the story, and don’t think it is enough to carry the plot. The plot that there was only happened within the last third of the story, but other than that it sort of meandered throughout the rest of it.
The lack of interactions also contributed to the slow plot/lack of plot. I get that that’s probably at least partially due to Zenn’s “Rule,” which is another thing I didn’t really buy. I get that she has the Rule because her mother died, but because she is so isolated in the cloister, she doesn’t have many opportunities to interact anyway. I also can’t imagine a teenage girl, even a martian girl, being content with having to stay in one place all the time and not getting frustrated by not being able to go out. But even when there were interactions, I felt that the dialogue was boring and didn’t show much of the characters’, well, character. At first, I thought Hamish’s style of speech was funny, but after a while, it got kind of old.
I also had a lot of trouble believing the “romance.” Zenn doesn’t share much about herself with Liam, and although he did share certain significant things with her, I just didn’t feel it was enough to spark anything between them. I guess the fact that Liam is the first guy who’s taken an interest in her could contribute, but for me they just didn’t mesh well.
I assume there will be at least a second book to Zenn Scarlett, but even though this book ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger (that’s another thing I didn’t really like. Ending with Zenn blacking out didn’t do anything for me. Anyway…), I certainly won’t be reading it. Zenn Scarlett is the second worst debut I’ve read this year, and I wouldn’t recommend it.