Synopsis: A seemingly random act of gang violence sends “Naz” Anderson on a quest to find answers surrounding his dead parents that lead to a series of discoveries about his supernatural abilities. Naz tries to stay out of the way at his foster parent’s home, but he walks in his sleep, and he is unable to keep the fact that he hears voices from his therapist. He attempts to go unoticed at school and in the streets of the Exclave, but attracts the attention of friends and bullies alike, and his efforts to protect his little sister make him the target of malicious bullying by the notorious street gang, Incubus Apostles. Naz is an ordinary thirteen-year-old, or so he thinks. He harbors a secret that even he is oblivious to, and a series of ill-fated events reveal to him telekinetic and telepathic abilities. Now he must navigate newly found friendship and gang violence, and face the full force of the world around him. The only way he can survive is to discover the supernatural world within.
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’m always a little anxious when an author offers me a book to read and review. What if I think it’s terrible? I hate writing negative reviews, but even more so in these cases. Well, I needn’t have worried in about IA: Initiate because it’s an exciting genre-bending YA book that tweens will gobble up.
Naz is the type of protagonist that will tug at your heartstrings. Having lost both his parents under mysterious circumstances which are slowly revealed as the story progresses, he’s just trying to be a good student, protective big brother, and to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, trouble seems to follow him, as he and his younger sister live with a disinterested foster mother in the violent urban area known as the Exclave. Naz has become prone to sleep-walking episodes which usually result in his few possessions being destroyed, and mysterious voices in his head. As if all that wasn’t enough to try to cope with, suddenly the violent street gang Incubus Apostles has become disturbingly interested in him. Naz is a street smart kid who just wants to make sure that he and his younger precocious sister Meri survive this dangerous world. They’ve both survived so many hardships in their young lives, but there’s not one instance where they feel sorry for themselves. Indeed, they retain a wry sense of humor and are completely devoted to one another.
Interspersed with the present day narrative are flashbacks to their parents, Dr. Cory and Camille Anderson. These short chapters add an intriguing layer to the mystery surrounding Naz because it’s obvious that Dr. Cory’s research has something to do with his son’s developing powers.
The only frustrating thing for me regarding this book was it’s relatively short length of 218 pages. Naz is such an appealing character that I wish more had been revealed about his family background and his mysterious powers before the end of the book. Thankfully the sequel IA: B.O.S.S. is coming out on November 27th, 2015
IA: Initiate is an imaginative science-fiction novel which successfully combines a coming-of-age story, with the beginning of a true hero’s quest. Featuring characters that middle-schoolers will identify with, as well as a thrilling, fast-paced plot, this is a great read which is perfect for classroom use or book discussion groups. I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel!