Dangerous felt like a really bad joke. I went into this book knowing very little about it, and that still doesn’t explain how random and confusing it was. The characters lacked depth and personality, and the plot didn’t flow well and felt disorganized. Dangerous attempted to make light of dire situations and ended up being inconsistent and unfocused; the only thing dangerous about it was the heroine’s middle name.
Maisie Danger Brown (yes, that’s her real middle name) wins a sweepstakes from a Blueberry Bonanza cereal box and gets herself an entry to the Howell Astronaut Boot Camp. She’s excited to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, and this is her opportunity to go up the Beanstalk, the first space elevator built by Bonnie Howell that goes thirty-six-thousand kilometers up into space. Maisie leaves behind her best-friend-who-wants-to-be-more-than-friends to spend the summer at space camp, where she forms a “fireteam” with the constantly cussing Jacques, red-headed Ruth, and slushie-loving Mi-Sun. She also ends up falling for Jonathan Ingalls Wilder (again, real name), who keeps sending Maisie mixed signals. However, there’s more to space camp than meets the eye, and Maisie finds herself thrust into more dangerous situations than she expected.
Okay, so now you know more about Dangerous than I did when I started reading the book. But even if I had known what this book was about before I read it, I’d still be unpleasantly surprised by the plot. The storyline feels choppy and unfocused, and the “fireteam” concept isn’t elaborated on past the first here’s-a-mission-go event. There’s just not enough backstory and details throughout the story’s progression, and I was confused about where the story was going most of the time. The kids just go with the flow, but the flow isn’t well thought out, so the camp itself feels wishy-washy and disorganized. I don’t want to give away the plot, but this story tries to merge together several science fiction tropes by introducing each trope separately, and I wish that I was given a glimpse of the big picture beforehand.
Maisie Brown was likable at the beginning of the story, but her character development is lacking and the plot holes make it worse. She has a physical disability that makes me care about her, but I should really say that she had a physical disability because it basically disappears with the introduction of high-tech stuff at space camp. Maisie ends up having all these add-ons that obscure her true character, and I ended up not caring for her as much as I would’ve liked to.
The other characters are even more poorly developed; The Boy is crazy inconsistent in his feelings for Maisie and his actions in general, and weak explanations of why he did what he did after the events in question do not work in garnering my sympathy for him as a main character. The love triangle thing going on between Maisie, The Boy, and the best-friend-back-home feels forced and awkward. Take away all these love interests, and Dangerous would actually be a better read.
The other members of the fireteam don’t really have personalities… they just have quirks. They don’t connect with Maisie at all, and even Maisie herself feels sorry for them at times rather than actually caring for them as a friend would. And Bonnie Howell is supposed to be this brilliant, intelligent woman, but she seems more like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory in that she tries to be entertaining in the most serious of moments and has no social skills whatsoever.
The pacing of the story is also strange because of the constant shift between lagging moments and fast-paced, action-packed moments. The story spans more than half a year, and there are events that seem unnecessarily drawn out. The characters also don’t develop much after these time lapses, and I really expected them to grow because, look, you had half a year!
But usually, for books that don’t work for me, I try to imagine them as TV shows or movies and somehow they work better in that media (in my mind). Dangerous works slightly better for me when I imagine it in that form just because there’s a lot of cool technology, but overall, the inconsistencies in the plot and the characters would still make it a not-so-enjoyable TV show.
I was unpleasantly surprised by Dangerous, possibly because I came in with high expectations for a Shannon Hale book. But the wacky plot and poorly developed characters threw me off, and even though this is a blend of sci-fi tropes that I haven’t seen before, I didn’t like Dangerous.