Official Review: Sunshine at the Academy by MF Blake

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CaitlynLynch
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Official Review: Sunshine at the Academy by MF Blake

Post by CaitlynLynch »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Sunshine at the Academy" by MF Blake.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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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.

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KAHILU ARMANDUS
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Post by KAHILU ARMANDUS »

For the title of the book go in hand with the content of the story. The age group which is selected is the best as at that age every child is keen to know and to experience what it feels like being send at an academy to explore their talent and skills.

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Hildah Mose
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Post by Hildah Mose »

This book sounds like a good read. I like strong willed female protagonist and I am sure I can identify well with sunny. Good review.

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kandscreeley
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Post by kandscreeley »

This actually sounds like something that is right up my alley. I love young adult books like this! I think I might have to put this on my (ever growing) to read list! Thanks for the great review!
Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.
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Post by ParadoxicalWoman »

Everything comes with a price. I think I can relate with Sunny the female protagonist. Good review!
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Post by Lincolnshirelass »

This sounds fascinating, and a really interesting review - wonder if there are echoes of 'Naughts and Crosses' here.
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inaramid
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Post by inaramid »

Great review! I don't really understand how humans could have still evolved as a dominant species if the dinosaurs have not been wiped out, and I hope the book explains that satisfactorily.

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Post by Gunnar Ohberg »

This book sounds like Ender's Game meets The Hunger Games ("The Ender Games," maybe?). Since I already know both of those stories, this sounds like an easy one to pass.

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Post by Mercy Bolo »

The moment you touched on race issues, I frowned a little. Although this sounds like an interesting story, the author's inclination shows a lack of imagination.
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Whitney Marchelle
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Post by Whitney Marchelle »

The name of this character is the best sunshine blue mountain. That is a first for sure, but it weirdly works in this story. Lol

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Post by Amanda Deck »

White skin does have a benefit in areas where there isn't much sunshine. And it's a bit strange that you take a point off for not having all different kinds of people in the book...

Other than that, I wonder if the law against being angry eventually somehow causes people to evolve into an inability to feel anger. Would that reaction be channeled into another form of expression, one possibly more helpful than anger? Then it eventually wouldn't even be felt as anger. How fundamentally can teaching and culture actually change humans?

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