Aaru by David Meredith is a unique creation which I enjoyed reading this week. The characters are well crafted and I cared about them all, who they were and what might happen to them. The story was gripping and really considered the effects of fame and ‘big brother’ on families and teenagers. This is not only a fantasy novel where sick children never die, but also a critique of society and the expectations they have of people simply for being in the spotlight.
Aaru by David Meredith begins with Rose’s death. Rose has had leukaemia for years now and when she dies, her family, especially her sister, Koren are devastated. Before she died, an experimental doctor came and attached multiple wires and sensors to Rose’s skull, so when she dies, she wakes up in Aaru, a world where the soul of a person can live forever. She is tasked with helping new residents of this world, and protecting it. In the real world, Koren is enamoured with Aaru, through which she can speak to her sister whenever she likes. She is so taken with it, that she agrees to become the company’s ambassador, shooting commercials and doing public appearances. But at what cost? Her family is about to find out.
What I liked…
Aaru is a clever story. Not only does Meredith do a great job with creating a brilliant fantasy world which connects with the real world, as well as making likeable characters for that world, but he also critiques society’s obsession with people and living forever. Koren is a very believable fourteen-year-old girl who loves her older sister and Aaru while discovering herself at the same time. Meredith seems to get the overwhelming situation she is in and that not everything is perfect in the land of fame. He also draws inspiration from Japanese anime in the fantasy world characters.
The plot is quite dark. It deals with death, obsession, stalking, sexual assault and kidnapping. It really takes into consideration the worst possible outcome of something so seemingly heavenly. I enjoyed seeing the inside world of Aaru, which is very different and much more magical and fantasy-based than the real world, but presents a contrast which will make the reader aware of the bleak situation in modern society. At the same time that it is dark, the story also offers a bit of hope and light. I enjoyed Rose’s positivity mixed with Auset’s realism and Franco’s admiration. I think that this group of characters is very pleasant for younger audiences.
What I didn’t like…
The only things I didn’t like in this book were things which could have been dealt with by a professional editor. While Meredith has done a great job of self-publishing, the small issues with dialogue and wording and the occasional typo meant that the book lacked that professional finish. It read more like a proof copy of a book rather than the finished product. Aside from this, at the very beginning I thought that the conversation between the teenage sisters felt too grown-up. The line “you’ve always been into Spanish guys” came across as weird. What sixteen-year-old girl has a type and knows it’s Spanish?
Overall, I thought that this book was a solid four stars. I would bump it up to five stars with some editing to keep the dialogue consistent and reduce a couple of the stereotypes. I would recommend this book to readers of dark young adult, or fantasy fiction. It really does offer a unique universe as well as a stark parallel to our current world within the same book, without making either seem out of place. Thank you, David Meredith for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I look forward to reading the next instalment, Aaru: Halls of Hel.