Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review by Jodi: Lindsay Versus the Marauders by J.S. Frankel (YA F/F)

Author: J.S. Frankel
Rating: 4.5


Shy Lindsay Fleming has just summoned up all her courage and come out. All she's ever wanted is to be accepted for herself, but though her best friend, Myra, is okay with her sexual orientation, many of her high school friends are not. Her parents don't understand at all, leaving Lindsay angry and confused. During the Christmas season, Lindsay attends a meeting for the "newly out," but she leaves when that turns into a disaster. On her way home, she saves a young woman from being mugged - by four red-skinned aliens!

The woman, Jonephra ("Call me Jo") is a resident of the planet Carinna, located in another dimension. The red-skinned men, known as "Marauders," are a mean, ruthless bunch who stole jewels that power Jo's home world, and she's on a mission to get them back. Turkel leads the band of heartless pirates, and they'll kill anyone who gets in the way of their looting and pillaging. Lindsay is reluctant to get involved, but she agrees to help Jo, who she is attracted to. Jo is tall and self-confident, and Lindsay thinks Jo might like her, but she feels so shy and awkward. Will she be able to shed her shyness and gain enough confidence to win Jo's heart? Even more risky: will Lindsay survive the dangerous Marauders, find the jewels and return them before Jo's planet runs out of reserve power?


“There is no need to thank me. On our world, we have a saying that to know peace is to know one's own self. I cannot and will not judge you for your feelings. I do not have that power or right. But your mind tells me you are afraid of the difference between you and others of your kind. Being afraid of the unknown is to be expected, but you must fight your own innermost fears first and foremost.” … “If I can offer one piece of advice, it is to say that among all creatures in the universe, there is always one for another. That is the way of all beings.”
-       Gaman

Lindsay Versus the Marauders is an action-packed, young adult story filled with adventure, danger and a bit of romance.  J.S. Frankel has done a great job developing this story, which features two strong female protagonists: Lindsay and Jo. Lindsay and Jo are sympathetic and intriguing characters. Frankel has created strong, yet vulnerable women who are placed in extreme situations.

Lindsay has been having a tough time. The 18-year-old has recently told her friends at school and her parents that she is a lesbian. Most of her friends, except for her best friend have abandoned her. Her fellow athletes tried to kick her off the swim team, and her mother has recently died. Lindsay is searching for love and acceptance.

When readers meet Lindsay, she is attending a small “coming out” party and is molested by a woman.  As she runs away from the party, she finds herself in the middle of a street fight in an alley. This is not a typical fight. The red-skinned, humongous man-like monsters are attacking a young woman who is brandishing a steel pipe.

You are not with this one, are you?" one of them asked in a deep, rasping voice. He pointed to the woman who held the pipe up in a defensive pose.

"Uh, I was just going home," Lindsay said. She hoped this was some kind of a dream. Her evening had gone from bad to worse. This whole scenario was like a nightmare come true and, of course, not a policeman in sight. Time to call Captain Obvious--of course there wouldn't be a cop within walking distance.

"She's not with me," the woman said.

"She's standing here," one of the beasts answered. "That makes her with you."

His voice, heavy and thick, sent a shiver through Lindsay. Her heart hammered inside her chest and for the briefest of moments she had the impression it would suddenly leap out Alien-style and dance a one-two beat down the block.

"Listen," she said, "I'm not with anyone, okay? I just want to go home, and--"

"You're here now," another of the attackers cut her off. The tallest of the lot, perhaps six-eight, he made her best friend Myra's boyfriend look tiny. He took a few steps closer to her and she was able to get a better look at him. He, like the other two, wore a long, leather cloak. Though it was dim in the enclosed space of the alley, she noticed he had long, almost fang-like teeth, a narrow face, twisted nose, and no eyebrows. His eyes were close together which gave a cross-eyed appearance and he stunk to high heaven.

The smell wasn't like the run-of-the-mill stink of garbage fermenting in the sun on a hot summer's day, either. Lindsay remembered seeing a dog get hit by a car. It lay in the street, its stomach torn open and its innards spread out on the ground. Heavy, thick, and cloying, the noxious smell of death and instant decay stayed with her for the longest time. This monster had the same odor. Death had decided to take its holiday on Earth.

"Get her," one of the devil-men said. "She can't be allowed to leave."

"She can't be allowed to live," said the one closest to her. He moved faster in her direction, followed by one of his comrades.

Jonephra (Jo) is having a rough day, too, based on the creatures that are following her and trying to kill her. The Marauders followed her to Earth hoping to find a stone she has hidden from them. Jo is from a planet called Carinna, located in the Telfarr galaxy. Her planet is world-locked, and travel is rare. But, Jo is on a quest. She needs to find a choosok to save her planet. She is also looking for something more personal.  Jo and Lindsay manage to get away from the attackers, but their safety is short lived.

Jo stood, took her bag into the bathroom, and came out again, taking her usual seat on the bed. "The guys you saw attacking me were mercenaries. They go by a bunch of different names depending on which galaxy you're in. The name everyone is most used to is Marauders. They're scum. The guys in power hire them to do the jobs they can't or won't do."

Lindsay is understandably freaked out, confused and skeptical.

Lindsay's eyes immediately went to the floor. She'd been in locker rooms and seen naked women her whole life, but now she felt an acute sense of embarrassment. Jo ignored her, and Lindsay's gaze traveled up from the floor, registered her slender but muscular thighs, the vaguely yellowish tint to her skin, her tanned and toned midriff, the rippling abs ... and the three navels.

Jo had three navels. Her mouth suddenly dropped open and she recalled the other girl's words. I don't have a last name. None of our people do. Lindsay didn't realize the woman across from her came from another planet. "You've got three bellybuttons," she said in wonder. They were innies, triangular in shape, very clean, and in a horizontal row.

"You're, you're..."

"I'm not from around these parts," Jo confirmed. "Yeah, aliens exist. Hell of a
revelation, isn't it?"

It is a hell of a revelation for Lindsay, who thinks she is being punked. She has never been away from home, and the information Jo tells her seems hard to believe. Lindsay keeps waiting for the punchline, and even though she seems to trust Jo pretty quickly, Lindsay is still skeptical. That is until the “man-things” smash through the door of Jo’s hotel room. “This was no dream.”

Lindsay didn't have the time to mentally gear herself up as Jo grabbed her around the waist and yanked her into the portal. She couldn't see a thing, it was pitch-black inside wherever they were, and then she heard Jo whisper, "That was close."

Lindsay had gotten totally freaked out by the two man-things smashing through the doorway. Jo hadn't been lying at all. Now she felt like she was standing on a precipice that dropped off into infinity and wondered why she'd gone to the party in the first place.

Too late to admit she'd made a mistake. Still, for the moment she was safe and she had Jo to thank for it. Jo fought hard, looked pretty good doing it, and in the back of her mind, Lindsay thought it would be cool to the ultra to say she'd gone on an adventure. It was better than getting groped by someone she didn't like, and it beat doing homework.

As for the portal, she figured they'd soon take just one step and enter another world. Just like stepping through a doorway. She figured wrong.

Once Lindsay accepts the new alternate reality, she jumps in feet first trusting Jo with her their lives. Jo is used to traveling and being on her own, so trusting another person is new to her, too.

In this book, Frankel creates alternate worlds and extraterrestrials that are intense and varied. The science-fiction elements of the story are well done and creative. As Jo tells her new companion, “The universe is a big place; there are countless species not to mention dimensions, and the possibilities of people looking like you are pretty much endless. Your world is just one of many."

Through dialogue and descriptive prose, Frankel shows readers worlds that they could never encounter on their own. And, of course, as with most young adult books, there are some underlying important lessons. Jo and Lindsay are both treated as outcasts because of their sexuality. Jo’s home planet is stark and dreary and in danger of being destroyed and a lot like Earth in some aspects.

Lindsay admired the high glass buildings, houses--squat, one-level jobs--and other structures which she didn't have a clue about. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of the air and a little voice in her head told her to look at the sky. There wasn't one, exactly. In the gloom, her eyes made out girders shooting straight up and then bending into an arc. The whole area looked like someone had covered it with Saran Wrap, yet through the covering or whatever it was, her eyes made out a sun more or less directly overhead. "Uh, Jo, correct me if I'm wrong, but is there a dome over this city?"

Jo had been staring straight ahead, but turned at the question and nodded. "Yeah,
we're closed in. All the cities on this planet are enclosed. The environment is ruined and the air outside is toxic."

In the dim light, her face looked haunted. "Most of the power we have now is used to filter the air and power up the essential utilities. Without it, the poisonous air from outside would leak in and phttt." She made a sound indicating finality occurring in a split second.

      Jo has been traveling around the universe looking for a choosok, which is a mandatory power source needed to keep the people on her planet alive and the dome intact. But the power source is not the only thing Jo needs. She needs acceptance, friendship and love. In this, Jo and Lindsay have a lot in common.

      This is the first book in a trilogy, and the ending primes the reader for more adventures.  The focus of this first book is the adventure, but the budding romance of Jo and Lindsay is promising. Frankel has established a strong bond between the two protagonists, and this reader is looking forward to reading the rest of their adventures. While Frankel twists reality in this science-fiction adventure, his writing conveys a multi-dimensional realism and vulnerability.

Thank you J.S. Frankel for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

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