Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza

From Goodreads:
Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do. 
Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.
Here's the deal, I'm not big on covers. I'm a dude, so the shelves of the YA section at the bookstore are like the cool kids' table at my high school: lots of gorgeous people who are all out of my league. I hear the Gallagher Girls tittering because my pants are too short. I half expect one of the Pretty Little Liars to jump down and stuff me in a locker.
Stephanie Meyer's Twilight says hello at Barnes & Noble
But I loved me some MILA 2.0 cover action! From the "disintegrating" face to the guy-friendly 2.0 tag (which makes it feel like I'm buying a new Bungie first person shooter), this is the kind of title I would have picked up in a bookstore if such a thing still existed.

And how about that tagline?

No one suspects what she's made of.

See, because she's an android! What's that? It also describes her character? Whut? Holy crap!
Mind = Blown!
See what I mean? This book works on, like, ten different levels! And if this were high school, I'd end it there and just write my book review based on the cover.
Debra Driza's MILA 2.0 is a character study in what happens when pretty people have faces made of Chiclets.
Boom. Where's my GED?

But I'm older now and I actually read books and I'm really glad I read this one.

Mila is an everygirl who simply wants to fit in. She's new to town, having moved there after a terrible fire that killed her father.

Quick detour: you can download Origins: The Fire, a short prequel story which details the events leading up to MILA 2.0. It's a great way to sample the book and a publishing trend I approve of. Not that you needed my approval, publishing world, but if you do, then you should know I also approve of maple bacon binding on all my books and injectable whipped cream.

So Mila just wants to hang with her BFF and crush on the adorbs loner. I mean, it's totally relatable. One minute you're sitting in the back of a pickup playing cute with the boy of your dreams, the next minute your skin is being ripped from your arm and you discover you're an android. I mean, hello, happens all the time! That's just what I call Tuesday, knamean?

For those of you calling spoilers, let me remind you that MILA'S FACE IS COMING APART ON THE COVER! I'm not giving away any secrets here.

After discovering she's step-sister to a Roomba, Mila resists her newfound abilities. Sure, she's half military hardware, half Garmin GPS unit, but she doesn't want to run with it because she finds herself feeling less human as a result. It's endearing and makes the process of discovery an interesting one while keeping the story from becoming all about the hardware.

And her powers are way cool. She can target threats and neutralize them using sensors that speak to her directly in her brain. If I could do that, I'd be using my new powers to make cheddar at the state fair by guessing your weight to the ounce. But Mila's better than that. She has to be, she's being chased by two sinister groups. One made her, the other wants to use her. On the run with her "mother," the woman who stole her from a government lab, Mila just wants to get back to the adorbs loner. Why can't Mila have nice things?!

There's a lot of action in this book and it reads like a summer blockbuster. The marketing copy makes her out to be a female Jason Bourne. I felt this was pretty accurate. While there's plenty of gun play, martial arts and car chases, a lot of Mila's success has to do with how she uses her brain which, while enhanced, is not this hyperthreaded, overclocked, machine intelligence. She really is "just" a girl. And therein lies her strength.

One of the subtler things I really liked about Driza's writing is her willingness to let parts of her story "steep." There are plenty of loose ends at the end without feeling unsatisfying or aggressively setting up any sequels (which, I am happy to report, there will be). Mila's love interest, for example, doesn't take the stereotypical route and spend the entire book all up in Mila's gorgeous, raven-colored razor cut. 

Can we take a moment to talk about that hairstyle, BTW? Does Mila's cover photo remind you of anyone?
Don't stress, hun. A good sunblock will keep your face from peeling like Mila's.
Detour: a lot of you have been very cruel about this young lady, and I'LL HAVE NONE OF IT! In my Monica Lewinsky fanfic, she finds love in the arms of a hot detective investigating the murders of several evil papparazzi. Maybe Driza wasn't going for a Monica vibe when she worked with the cover designers, but I, for one, am grateful nonetheless.

Most of my reviews tend to look at books that are good YA titles for reluctant guy readers. This is definitely one of them. Top three reasons I think this is a great book for guys:

1. The love interest, while interesting and appealing, isn't overdone. In guyspeak: it's no sausage fest. Guys hate sausage fests. Unless it's an actual, you know, sausage fest.

2. Mila has echoes of other kickass female heroines like Jennifer Garner in Alias, Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy and Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse. Um, it just occurred to me, did I miss a meeting where everyone agreed we weren't making shows like that anymore? WTH?

3. Monica Lewinsky. Yes, I'm making that a thing, people!

MILA 2.0 is, of course, a title for males and females. But if you have any guys looking for a good action/adventure staring a hot girl who looks good while breaking someone's arm, or if you have any Monica Lewinsky fetishists in your social circle, get them a copy of MILA 2.0. It's fun, kinetic and a great set up for what promises to be a strong series.

I hope you enjoy!

Copil is Three Laws Safe. You can follow him on Twitter (@copil).


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