Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.
Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.
In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide, and the two must learn to work together–a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.
With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.
I picked up this book because of the promise of kick-butt girls in space. It had that and more!
The book pulled me immediately into the life and motivations of Aisha. Her religious beliefs give her every reason to NOT allow her body to be enhanced – except that it’s her only chance to protect her sick brother and younger sister. Aisha’s closely-held beliefs feel genuine and make her a stand-out in the YA spec fic market. The fact that she’s caught between her beliefs and the cybernetic enhancements she’d taken on creates a constant source of tension in the story.
Aisha’s beliefs also put her in direct contrast with Key, a girl of action, not faith. But beneath her tough exterior, Key struggles to hide her faulty memory, a difficult thing to do since their team has been augmented with mental connections which allow them to read each other’s thoughts and emotions and therefore perform well as a team. Both girls struggle with the mutual acceptance and cooperation they’ll need work together effectively and earn a spot among the elite units protecting the fleet.
I found this a quick read for space sci fi. Skrutskie includes plenty of world-building, but not world-building for its own sake, only as needed to move the plot forward. The story is told in first person, alternating perspectives, which allows the reader to really get to know both girls and move with them through the story. Twists and turns along the way keep the plot interesting. It will appeal to readers of Nyxia by Scott Reintgen and LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff.
I requested an advanced reader copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book recommendation was originally posted on TheWingedPen.com. If Hullmetal Girls sounds good, you might also like other young adult books discussed on The Winged Pen.
REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on TheWingedPen.com.