Cheerleaders from Planet X, by Lyssa Chiavari
Publisher: Kraken Collective
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Aliens are among us. And humanity’s only hope just happens to carry pom-poms.
Laura Clark thought she was just your average college freshman—until the day she saw a cheerleader on a skateboard get into a superhuman brawl with a lightning-wielding stranger in a trenchcoat. And the weirdest thing of all? Nobody else saw it happen. Nobody, that is, except the beautiful but standoffish Shailene, one of the mysterious (and possibly super-powered) cheerleaders from Laura’s rival school, Bayview University.
When girls start disappearing all over the City, Laura suddenly realizes that she may have seen more than she should. And if she wants to keep from disappearing herself, she needs to find some answers. But though Laura can’t shake the feeling that they’re somehow connected, Shailene is more than a little reluctant to share her secrets. With strange, bug-like creatures and a sinister man in a dark coat stalking her every step, Laura will have to uncover the truth fast if she wants to survive.
The fate of the planet just might hang in the balance.
Person of Color
Content Warning for: homophobia, parental abuse
Cheerleaders from Planet X is supposed to be a send-up to classic science fiction tropes, but with lesbians. It succeeds on the latter count, but the story felt less tongue-in-cheek and more like it is using the tropes at face value, rather than attempting to subvert any of them. All the pieces (sorority girls! cheerleaders! secret government agencies! aliens!) are in place for a fun romp, but by the end, I felt kind of tired of the whole thing – the joy had gone out, and the end-game requires a lot of frustrating running and yelling that could have been fixed by a few simple conversations. Many of the characters felt like they were making decisions at the whim of the plot as well.
Laura and Shailene are a cute couple, and I thought it was interesting and a nice change of pace for Laura to be part of a sorority. In fact, the parts of this story that felt the most real and genuine are when Laura is interacting with her sorority.
There are a few twists that are pretty easy to see coming, but Laura’s reaction to a deep betrayal feels pretty shallow, and the implications are never fully addressed. In fact, Laura seems unreasonably forgiving, and her family truly callous. I also felt uncomfortable with the way in which Laura’s Filipino family is depicted at various points. I want to give this book a higher rating because of what it could have been (and what I wanted it to be), but ultimately this one fell flat for me. But if you’re in the mood for tropey sci-fi, this might be the one for you.
Lyssa Chiavari is an author of speculative fiction for teens and young adults, including Cheerleaders from Planet X and the Iamos Trilogy, a YA sci-fi series set on Mars. Her short fiction has appeared in Ama-Gi magazine, Wings of Renewal, Clarion Call Vol. II, and Perchance to Dream, a young adult collection of Shakespeare retellings which she also edited. Lyssa lives with her family and way too many animals in the woods of Northwest Oregon. Visit her online and sign up for her newsletter at lyssachiavari.com.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.