3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Every year, each of the humanoid races of the 634 planets of the United Universe selects two young representatives to send to the Academy. The best and brightest of their people, these students are destined to become the future diplomats, ambassadors and politicians tasked with the continuing security and harmony of the UU.
This year, Sunshine Blue Mountain is one of the two representatives sent from the planet Baatar, a formerly warlike people now living a peaceful, pastoral existence. The most similar world to Earth of every planet yet discovered, Baatar is different in one crucial way - the meteor crash which wiped out Earth’s dinosaurs never happened. Evolving alongside such terrifying predators, Sunny’s people became the most renowned hunters in the galaxy, known for their speed and endurance.
Consistently underestimated because of her appearance as a small, pretty blonde, Sunny is nevertheless determined that she won’t be pushed around by bullies. Forbidden by her race’s strict laws from feeling anger or fighting except in self-defence, she must use all her ingenuity to survive and thrive in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Academy, especially when her attraction to a warrior prince from the most hostile planet in the United Universe threatens to derail everything she has worked so hard for.
Sunshine At The Academy by MF Blake is a YA novel intended for ages 13 and up, and I think teenagers would really enjoy and relate to Sunny. Desperately homesick, Sunny is still determined to make the best of her situation.
It would be easy to see Sunny as a 'Mary-Sue', that over-powered character who can do no wrong, to whom everything comes easily and everyone adores. However, Sunny really doesn’t fit that mould; while she makes friends easily, she also has plenty of enemies who view her as competition to be defeated, and her struggles are beautifully detailed in the story. We hear from Sunny herself that she has difficulty with certain academic subjects and has to spend just as many hours studying as any other of her classmates.
I found Sunny’s efforts to reconcile her natural instincts with the Baatarian’s strict non-violence laws really intriguing, and certain revelations from her fellow Baatarian student River made me think that there are some interesting secrets about her background even Sunny does not know about. Since Sunshine At The Academy only covers the first of her four years of study, I have no doubt that Sunny’s adventures in the rest of the series will prove fascinating reading.
The book is well written and edited, and I found no significant structural or story issues. Perhaps the only thing I found disappointing was the lack of diversity; while the author’s explanation for how humanoids had generally become the dominant life-forces on their respective planets was plausible, I thought that the rigid adherence to male and female sexualities was something of a missed opportunity. Sunny and Gideon’s appearances as ‘white’ humans, and clearly the most superior physical specimens among their classmates, also smacks of racial superiority, especially as ‘white’ is a gene variation which carries no particular evolutionary benefits.
This is a well-written YA book I think most teenagers would find enjoyable. However, those from more diverse backgrounds and sexualities may find little to identify with in the protagonist’s situation. For this reason, I am rating this book 3 out of 4 stars.
Sunshine at the Academy
View: on Bookshelves
Like CaitlynLynch's review? Post a comment saying so!