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It's 2018 and people at NASA want to go back to the moon. But no one's been there since the 70s, so with funding and public support limited, they need an angle. A draw. Something to get people all over the world buzzing. Their answer is a worldwide lottery to select three teens who can accompany the NASA team on their week long jaunt into space. The chance of a lifetime! An unforgettable, unrepeatable experience! An adventure that truly is out of this world!
But is there a reason it's taken so long to return to the moon? And why, now, is the time to go back? In a clear case of what you don't know can hurt you, the crew find a less than hospitable environment waiting for them up there. In space, no one can hear you scream, but that doesn't mean there aren't things up there that will scare you silly.
This is a sci fi thriller that will appeal to far more than its official teen audience. It is a well-executed tale that brings together various perspectives - of the teens and crew, but also of people on the ground. It doesn't sell out and go for a Hollywood ending, but instead leaves quite a few unknowns
Mia is a musician who wants to be a star but has no desire to see them up close - her parents enter her in the contest and she's far from impressed by their decision to do so. The training, let alone the mission itself, will take her far away from her friends and her band for a long time. Too long a time. Having recently broken up with his girlfriend, Antoine is feeling like there's nothing on Earth to live for... so there's nothing to lose by leaving the planet behind, even if only for a few days. And then there's Midori, who dreams of moving to New York. This might be her ticket out of Japan for good, and while it might seem a bit out of the way to stop off at the moon first, her end goal of escaping to the USA and gaining a little fame in the process makes it all worthwhile. The three of them start the book with nothing in common, which makes for a more interesting story, but soon find themselves on an adventure together. No one else will ever come close to appreciating what they've gone through on the mission and so close bonds quickly form.
The book doesn't read like a translation, and I mean that as a compliment. Originally published in Norwegian, the English version feels authentic and not as sterile as some Scandinavian books can be when they get translated. It is well paced with attention given to the time period pre-launch as well as once they're on their way and though it's longer than a lot of teen books, it actually left me wanting more. The design is kooky and I suppose could be deemed futuristic, though 2018 is really not that far off anymore, but I found the photos and diagrams a little unnecessary. They didn't detract from the story, but I don't think they really added much either.
I thought this was a brilliant, imaginative, suspense-filled book right up until the last few pages. I know you can't please everyone but I didn't really get what the final report was trying to show as it seemed to take the story in a different direction from that of the final pages of narration. And at that point I started thinking back to see if I'd missed something. A few tugs on some other loose ends and I was mulling over more and more things that didn't add up. Like the fact Mia is Norwegian, Antoine is French and Midori is Japanese. Perhaps if the author had been from the USA, an American teen might have made the cut too. Either way, it's a nicely rounded mix BUT... for the sake of the story we have to believe they all speak English well enough to use it as a lingua franca because there's no talk of Babelfish or the like and the rest of the crew are all Yanks. This isn't the only hole you can pick in the story if you try, but I specifically didn't try. Plus perhaps I'm being unfair to judge a teen book with an adult perspective - at age 14 none of this would have bothered me and I'd probably have thought it the best book ever written. The science might not be watertight, but then it's an imaginative (teen) science fiction rather than fact, and it is a great story if you let yourself enjoy it instead of nit-picking.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Published in English on 5th April 2012, it's now available in paperback and Kindle forms