Author: Justin Ordoñez
Publisher: TDS Publishing
Series: Skysoa #1
Target Audience: Older YA+
Genre: Realistic fiction
Length: 320 pages
Story: Sykosa (that's "sy"-as-in-"my" ko-sa) is a junior in high school. She belongs to an exclusive clique of girls called the "Queens." The leader is her best friend Niko. Their friendship has been strained lately because Tom—Sykosa's first boyfriend boyfriend—has gotten all serious about making her his pretty Prom princess. That is if he ever gets around to asking her. Before Prom, there's a party at Niko's cottage where parental supervision will be nil. He wants to have sex. She doesn't. He sometimes acts like that doesn't matter.
Sykosa has a secret she has never told anyone about. Although, some people—Tom included—know anyway. It happened last year and it was big and she'll cry if she talks about it so she's done talking about it, okay? Never mind, it's nobody's business. Except it keeps happening, and it never stops. She doesn't want to deal with it. He does. She sometimes acts like that doesn't matter.
Thoughts and impressions: The style of this story is very out of the norm. It’s one that’s very raw and to the point while still somehow managing to only skirt around certain subjects. I admit that it took me a while to actually get into the style. I read the book in parts, at first because the style failed to really lure me in and then because I had other reading obligations that were more urgent. The synopsis was one that caught my attention immediately, but I was quite a way into the book before it had really sucked me in. On top of this the jumpy narration occasionally made it quite hard to follow events and I would find myself having to go back and reread passages in order to really understand what was going on. This was frustrating.
Eventually I came to realise that this was written more like the style of Skyosa’s thought flow. I’m not so keen on that style (“je buvais des grenouilles” – I drank frogs – the sentence that put me off this style), but I do see the appeal for it, especially for a story such as this where everything is very dependent on Skykosa’s innermost thoughts and secrets, and her preference to skirt around a certain event in her past rather than tackling the event head on. This event in her past is very important to the evolution of her character. She often alludes to it but never quite manages to tackle it head on.
I think that it is important to note that while the story may be considered aimed at the YA market, it’s more aimed at mature YA or adult readers. There are a number of subjects tackled that I wouldn’t consider entirely appropriate for younger readers. There is a huge focus on sex in particular. And when I say that it focuses on sex, I mean it seems like all of the characters focus on sex almost all of the time. I don’t remember being that sex-mad as a teen but then I did grow up in a very different environment.
In fact, I’m not sure that this environment could have been any farther from the one I experienced myself. I liked that they were Asian characters, in a very religious environment and yet many of the parental figures take a backseat to the action, seeming to take little interest in their teenage children’s antics. It made for an original setting. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read something quite like this.
There is a darkness that overshadows the whole of this story. It’s not a feel good book. It’s a grim look at a potential reality that a teen could face. There’s a cast of broken individuals who are all struggling to come to terms with events they’ve faced and how their lives have been impacted. It’s not a book that I would normally pick up but it’s one that made me stop and think. And it’s got me intrigued – I’m very interested in seeing where things will go next!
Style: See review.
Final verdict: A dark tale that took me places I hadn't expected to go. I really enjoyed the story but found the style a little off putting (the style is, however, part of what makes this story so different and is central to what makes Skyosa Skyosa). 4 stars
Extra notes: Bad language is present. There is a focus on sex.
Justin Ordoñez was born in Spain, raised in the mid-west, and currently lives in Seattle. He's nearly thirty years old, almost graduated from the University of Washington, and prefers to wait until TV shows come out on DVD so he can watch them in one-shot while playing iPad games. For fifteen years, he has written as a freelance writer, occasionally doing pieces as interesting as an editorial, but frequently helping to craft professional documents or assisting in the writing of recommendation letters for people who have great praise for friends or colleagues and struggle to phrase it. Sykosa is his debut novel.