[REVIEW] Red Handed – Gena Showalter

Gena Showalter
Red Handed (Teen Alien Huntress, Book 1)
Simon & Schuster MTV Books (19th June 2007)
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Welcome to New Chicago, where numerous alien species are abundant, and some can get along with humans. But the ones who viciously attack must be destroyed. Enter the Alien Investigation and Removal agency.

With two stints in rehab to combat her addiction to Onadyn, Phoenix Germaine is living the clean life – even when her best friend doesn’t, and repeatedly offers her the drug. (Some friend, eh?) A party in the woods turns chaotic when Sybilins attack and Phoenix is returned home in what appears to be an Onadyn-induced state. Her mother sends her away to what Phoenix learns to be the AIR training academy. There she and her fellow recruits undergo strict studying and prac work that will prepare them for the rigours of life as a fully fledged AIR agent.

Be warned that this is a character-driven novel, not plot-driven. The story seems as if written by the pants and not plotted. Phoenix’s backstory, entering the academy, learning her lessons, social interaction… There is the obligatory second stoush with the Sybilins at the climax, but it seemed like it was just thrown in there.

Characterisation is kind of scattered – some work well, and others don’t. While Phoenix’s character is interesting enough, her obsession with Ryan distracted from an otherwise intriguing read. Allison, the designated bad girl, seems like your typical fictional nemesis, although she and Phoenix are not enemies at the end. I often got the classmates confused for one another, but by far the most fascinating character is Kitten, Phoenix’s new BFF who’s a Teran, a species of alien that has commonalities with felines.

Note that this is a companion series of sorts to the author’s Alien Huntress series for adults, which I haven’t yet read. Mia Snow and Mishka Le’Ace, instructors at the academy, have their own novels, as does Eden Black, whom we don’t meet here but whose name is mentioned.

The epilogue seems extraneous, and won’t tell you anything important that the next novel, Blacklisted, won’t (judging from the copy). So while Red Handed has its flaws, it focuses on what’s dearly missing in teen fiction (aliens) and showcases fabulous world-building that I can’t wait to read more about.

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