Invaded - Melissa Landers

   Last year, I picked myself up a nice little paperback by the name of Alienated. By then, I had known the sequel was already out, but I put off reading it because the first book was too perfect to even risk messing up with a sequel. 

   But, I ended up seeing it in the library, and a year of not reading it ended as the pull of my favorite characters in all of the extraterrestrial-foreign-exchange-student genre won me over. 

   Conclusion: Aelyx and Cara remain my favorite characters in all of the extraterrestrial-foreign-exchange-student genre. 

   Alienated, to which Invaded is a rather satisfying sequel, centers on the life of a perfectionist, straight-A student--as it's turned upside-down by a classmate from an entirely different planet. 

   Landers' work is a volume of riveting speculative fiction, which is why seeing Invaded sitting casually on the library shelf elicited an inhuman squeal from me. 

   I'd go right ahead and make a recommendation to fans of a select other book series except for the fact that I can't think of many book series similar to this one. The Alienated series is a tale that brings quite a few things to the table that not much else has to offer. 

   Though neither book in the series is light fare, dealing with xenophobia on Earth and elsewhere, corruption in government systems, the possibility of something other than a representative republic being the ideal system, and the way prejudice can influence all walks of sentient and intelligent life, but they remain quick reads, with bright and funny moments mixed into all the drama and tenseness. 

   This story could very well be a television dramedy--and work just as perfectly as it does as a book series. 

   In this second book, Cara learns to adjust to the culture of a planet in another galaxy--while her love interest tries to survive back home. 

   As a sci-fi/fantasy writer myself, I know very well the challenge and joys of writing imagined cultures. 

   Landers does a very good job of this, not only showing forethoughts that abound in details throughout both Alienated and Invaded. This philosophy and outlook of the L'ehir (fictional culture) people in Invaded are strikingly clear, and while we're discussing fictional cultures, I'll draw attention to the fact that Aelyx is a unique character that still manages to have a strong culture identity, whom is a pleasure to read about in almost every scene in which he's mentioned. 

   Going back to the fictional culture, Landers' imaginary culture can, oddly enough, relate to real, significant things. I think that fact is best stated with a quote from Alienated: "it's arrogant to assume the democratic method is best because it's all you know."

   And Aelyx, the person who said that, is probably right. We all accept this one specific kind of republic (as in, the United States) from the moment we learn what it is, and never give a thought to anything else. At the very least, if we don't want to live in a place that governs itself differently, it's probably in our best interest to learn about those places and give them a littler more thought than just, "it's bad." Just this one element adds so much intellectual value to the whole series, and in Invaded, it adds to the experience of reading about this other planet from the perspective from a human who has now found herself living there. 

   IN addition, Invaded also takes a deeper look at human xenophobia, using it to create tenseness and peril as well as pointing out the horrors of these kinds of things, from the perspective of both the victim and someone from a world of perpetrators. 

   Yep, you heard that right. Young Adult literature has produced a fine, profound metaphor for prejudice and terrorism. (Some may be surprised. I'm not.) 

   Invaded teaches us not to turn away foreign peoples, to give other ideas and cultures a chance at the very least. And, even better, while it does that, it tells a fast-paced, interesting, enjoyable, and compelling story. 

   Thought, if there's one thing Invaded is unsuccessful in attempting, it's wrapping up the story and resolving the conflicts. 

   With the possibility of a third book still in the air, Invaded ends with a close, yet not-quite resolution. There are still questions left unanswered, and though seemingly only  a fraction of the big picture, the loose ends make the story seem sloppily finished. 

   I also notice Invaded abandons some of its profoundness for action at the climax, something a lot of other books do, sometimes not necessarily having a need for it as well. I've seen this kind of thing done gracefully, but Invaded seems to make too much of a sacrifice. Invaded also has a concrete antagonist, though why such a story even needs one I can't even figure out for myself. Some plot decisions Invaded makes draw attention away from the elements that made Alienated fantastic, and would've gone on to make Invaded even more so, if the plot of the sequel hadn't derailed so quickly and dramatically. 

   But, where invaded did stay with the original elements, it exceeded in making them extremely entertaining. 

 Despite really gravitating towards romance in general, I can still enjoy one in a book in which it is written well and works well with the rest of the story. (And bonus points if it doesn't consume the rest of the book.) The romance Melissa Landers writes in Invaded is meaningful and sweet, readable and enjoyable, even for people that aren't really fans of romance in general. That's part of the beauty of this kind of romance that is this well done: anyone who reads it could empathize and feel. 

   With the romance also comes a powerful statement of teenagers, though, that I think I might appreciate even more. YA has no shortage of proving adolescents smarter than their stereotypes, but Invaded takes it a step further. The characters in relationships in this book are ready to commit, and the fact that those characters are young doesn't make that impossible. That real feelings warranting sacrifice and commitment can be portrayed realistically is a step in the right direction for young characters in the book world. 

   Invaded is a worthy sequel to Alienated, despite any gaps it may have in plot. And it's filled with everything: excitement, romance, humor, and meaning. Absolutely a satisfying read.