Solid by Shelley Workinger
Solid # 1
Number of pages: 221
My copy: ebook review copy from the author
Eighteen years ago, a rogue Army doctor secretly experimented with a chromosomal drug on unknowing pregnant women. When he was killed not long after the children were born, any knowledge and evidence seemed to die with him – except the living, breathing, human products of his work.
Almost two decades later, the newly self-proclaimed “open-book” military unearths the truth about the experiment, bringing Clio Kaid and the other affected teens to a state-of-the-art, isolated campus where they soon discover that C9x did indeed alter their chromosomes – its mutations presenting as super-human abilities. The military kids, who come from across the nation and all walks of life, come into their own as lighter-than-air ‘athletes’; ‘indies’ as solid as stone walls; teens who can make themselves invisible and others who can blind with their brilliance.
While exploring her own special ability, forging new friendships and embarking on first love, Clio also stumbles onto information indicating that the military may not have been entirely forthcoming with them and that all may not be as it seems…
* * *
This year, I discovered a little sub genre that I’m starting to like — superhero fiction. I’m not sure if it really is a valid sub genre (I’m pretty sure it falls under science fiction), but I’m really, really liking reading stuff about superheroes or mutants. I’m pretty sure this stems from all the X-Men cartoons I watched when I was younger. I’ve only read two books that dealt with superheroes, or at least people with powers that didn’t involve magic (The Rise of Renegade X and Being Jamie Baker) this year, so when Shelley Workinger, author of Solid, sent a review copy for the first book in her series, I was glad to accept.
Eighteen years ago, an army doctor secretly created a drug that modified the chromosome of a baby while they were in the womb and administered them to unknowing pregnant women. No one knew about this even after he was killed, until the military unearthed the truths of this experiment and called on all these children to spend some time in a hidden campus for some testing. Turns out this drug allowed the children to have superhuman abilities, much like superheroes — if only these kids know how to harness their powers. One of these kids is Clio Kaid, who joins the program not knowing what it was really about. As Clio explores whatever ability she had, she also makes new friends and even possibly found her first love. And then things turn weird when she finds information that tells them that maybe the military is hiding secrets from them, and she recruits her friends to find out what exactly is going on.
Solid is very entertaining, as it plays on familiarity and some pop culture to make it an easy to relate to novel. In a way, this book reminds me of The Secret World of Alex Mack, and I could definitely see this one being made into a TV show for teens. I liked Clio’s voice, and while I didn’t really anything super spectacular about her, I found her very easy to like. Her friends were also very interesting and different — snobby and domineering Miranda, shy Bliss (who, for some reason, reminds me of Glimmer from She-Ra), funny Garrett and charismatic Jack. I liked their group’s chemistry a lot, and it was nice for Clio to have a group of friends to turn to in the middle of all of this.
That being said, however, despite the entertainment value, I felt that Solid lacked a bit of “oomph”. It may be because it was a bit too short for everything to make sense. I felt a bit detached from the climax, probably because I didn’t feel a proper build up for it? I didn’t have a whole sense of danger, really, maybe because I found that I could predict what could happen when the high point of the book happened. I could see it being very well played on TV, though — so maybe it could work as a TV show? I also wished for more explanation for their abilities, because that’s always something I look forward to in reading these kinds of fiction. Maybe it will be explained in the next books? Also, the ending also felt a tad too cheesy, but it may just be me.
Still, Solid was a pretty good debut, and I think it has a lot going for something independent. Maybe with a prettier cover, it could get picked up more? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not really feeling the purple chromosome — it gives me a first impression of a paranormal romance novel when it’s really not. Or maybe a prettier typeface, one that doesn’t really remind me of some labels on cord covers.