This book was like several books thrown together - I Am Number Four, The Last Thing I Remember, and Alex Rider. Think a science fiction meets fantasy action/adventure rollercoaster. The opening chapter hits the ground running, taking off into the plot from page one. I will give it points for being a page turner, because at over 500 pages long, it'd want to be. If you like a good fast-paced story with colourful characters, clever plot twists, and mysteries that bend your mind, you can't go wrong with this book.
The upsides - From the very beginning, I had decided I would like this book, solely for the paragraph where Will describes his parents:
All the kids he knew ripped their parents 24/7, but Will never piled on. For good reason: Will West had won the parent lottery. They were smart, fair, and honest, not like the phonies who preached values, then slummed like delinquents when their kids weren't around. They cared about his feelings, always considered his point of view, but never rolled over when he tested the limits. Their rules were clear and balanced between lenient and protective, leaving him enough space to push for independence while always feeling safe.
Pick up almost any other YA piece of fiction and you will have either A. a parentless main character, or B. an MC with parents that s/he hates. Will's respectful and honouring relationship with his parents throughout the entire book was stellar. Add to the fact Will has a good character, courage, intelligence, humility, and super-human abilities and you have an all round awesome character in an intriguing story.
As for the story itself, the plot is convincing; its mysteries and intricacies slowly unveil over the impressive length, yet it never lags nor gets bogged down over unnecessary details. I found it quite a pleasure to read such a long novel without getting bored with either the characters or story, or becoming annoyed by bad writing. The action scenes are believable, as are the chase scenes. One other big plus for me was the humour - honestly, this book cracked me up. I was laughing out loud to the point of tears at one stage, especially after my two brothers read it and we could quote pieces to each other's amusement.
"Amazeballs," said Nick, astonished. "You know what this means, don't you?"
"No," said Will.
"The Village People are getting back together," said Nick.
"Apparently at a Renaissance fair," said Ajay.
Another bonus that the author included in amongst the story was "Dad's rules". Will's Dad kept a list of rules and lived by them, and some of them reminded me a lot of the book of Proverbs. Some were funny, some were practical, and a lot of them held a goodly amount of wisdom. Every time one of the rules would come into play in specific situations, he would quote the rule. A few examples: Don't confuse good luck with a good plan. Be quick, but don't hurry. When everything goes wrong, treat disaster as a way to wake up. There are plenty more good insights to be find throughout the whole book.
Now you might have noticed I have sort of avoided an actual summary of the main plot so far. Coming at it from a theological standpoint, it is definitely an interesting and pondersome one. After Will's life is thrown into jeopardy, his "guardian angel" comes to him and tells Will that he is in the middle of a war between different worlds. Turns out, before humans walked the earth, there was a big mess of evil critters and creatures that Will's guardian Dave and his gang had to remove because they were too wicked, confining them to a place in space called the "Never-Was" (does this backstory sound somewhat familiar?). Will has frequent encounters with these "fuzzies" (Dave's pet name for them) and they aren't very pretty characters. I believe they are loosely based on creatures from Greek myths, or other related fantasy beings. Depending on where your convictions lie, reading about creepy evil creatures that border on disturbing in certain scenes may not be your cup of tea. However they are clearly depicted as the "bad guys", such is often the case in fantasy battles between good and evil. Theologically, normal books like this with so many fantasy elements either exclude God, or have a fantasy/sci-fi substitute for Him. However it is interesting to see that the plot of this book does not exclude God, nor has an equal fantasy counterpart for Him. When Will questions whether or not Dave's realm is governed by God, Dave laughs and says "that one's a thousand orders of magnitude removed from us". It's as though Dave's realm comes somewhere under God's, and they have been given the task of keeping the universe in order. It's an interesting concept, not one I've seen before, but I think it was well executed.
The one other downside to this book is the language. Though there are no uses of extreme profanity, there is a liberal amount of PG13+ swearing throughout the entire read. I personally did not have that big an issue with it, however it was definitely substantial enough to warrant a very obvious mention.
On the whole, despite the language and creepy crawlies, I do recommend this read. The book ends tidily enough with a great set up for the sequel, and I am definitely looking forward to reading it. It's a fun and thrilling read that I think I'll definitely want to read more than once.