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Ayden’s Choice by Sam Felix is YA science fiction, but rather than focusing on futuristic technology and what-ifs, Felix sets his story in the throes of modern technology with a narrative impacted by the Internet, smartphones, and GPS glitches.
Check out the back copy:
While the 221-page book might be shelved among novels, a quick line count reveals that it likely falls in the novella range (about 30-40k words). It’s a quick read. With fast pacing and a multi-POV structure, you’ll have turned the final page in just a few sittings.
What I Loved
This book doesn’t shy away from the topics of racism and child abuse. For someone who likes a healthy dose of honesty with her fiction, that was great. The story gives you plenty to think about and shines the light on the sort of prejudice that too often flies under the radar.
I loved the tech aspects of the narrative, and I would have liked more of that. Luckily, from the ending, it looks like that will be emphasized throughout the series.
The multi-POV structure seamlessly incorporated intertwined stories, keeping the reader a step ahead of the characters. Along with quickening the narrative's pacing, the omniscient view helped me feel more involved in the events—rather than being trapped within Ayden's minimal knowledge.
Since I am a professional editor, I’ll go ahead and turn that stone. I noticed a few copy editing errors (perhaps one per chapter, excepting a bit of nonstandard punctuation) and one typographical error in the entire book. The quality of editing is certainly higher than the majority of books on Amazon, and I’m pleased to say that I rarely found myself editing as I read (a very high compliment, coming from me).
What I Didn't
Although the back cover and the title casts Ayden as the hero, he rarely makes his own decisions over the course of the story. More often, he is shuttled about by higher-ups trying to keep him safe. While the depth of his emotional baggage makes him an interesting character, he lacks the agency I like to see in a protagonist. By that, I do mean during this particular narrative. The most impactful decision he makes happens before the events of the story. The lack of influence Ayden has over the course of the narrative makes the story feel very plot-driven.
I also would have liked more development in the antagonist. To the author's credit, the antagonist did have a defined backstory and a clear attempt at explaining why he is the way he is, but it just didn't ring true for me. The antagonist fell flat, and I didn't feel that tear-me-apart ambivalence I love to hate. I want to know that if the story were told from the antagonist's perspective, I might root for him, and I didn't get that here.