Phantom Universe by by Laura Kreitzer
228 Pages (paperback)
Obsidian Mountain Publishing
February 3, 2011
Sold into slavery to pirates at the young age of four, Summer learns to survive the rough seas of subterfuge and thieves through silence. When the boat she's lived on most of her life is destroyed, Summer finds herself washed up on the shore of a new world, a phantom universe full of the bizarre and extraordinary. She meets Gage, the one boy who understands the girl with no speech. But when their lives are put on the line, will Summer finally call out? Or will all be lost in the fathomless depth of silence?
It is impossible not to start off this review with my first impression of the book, so I'm just going to give in and do so.... The packaging of this book was just not good. I don't like the cover (it might have changed... mine looks like the above) for starters, and once you open the book the font is so incredibly small that it hurts your eyes to read. It is not even like I am just used to the larger font of YA books, I compared to my school books and Phantom Universe's font is still much smaller. It just made it difficult to read. Also, at the beginning the chapter pages would include "Age Sixteen" or "Age Four" this was helpful at first when time was switching, but after a couple chapters it was all "Age Sixteen", I didn't get why not just note it when it was not sixteen?
Other than the physical technicalities of the book, the actual story was interesting. I found myself sympathizing with Summer, which it is kind of hard not to, since she is so abused and neglected. The reason I thought I would have trouble with this is because she does not speak. Like not at all. But she is not dumb, she is actually very bright (although she hasn't been exposed to many things, so she is ignorant of them) and has normal internal dialogue that helps with the absence of her spoken word.
Speaking about the spoken word... my only other criticism is that some of the dialogue that the other characters says just seems oddly out of place. I get that it takes place in the future and the author was most likely trying to portray the change in lingo, but it just seemed, I don't know... weak? Like the characters would try to be all intimidating and mean but they say something the equivalent of a four year-old thinking "butt head" is the worst thing ever.
Okay, so I know it seems like I have a lot of negative things to say about this book, but I really did enjoy it. I appreciated Summer's development; she is seriously messed up in the beginning, but it makes sense, and I like how she relapses into her original state a few times. It seemed like that would actually happen, she doesn't just go from messed up to perfect.
The actual storyline kept me interested as well, even though at times it seemed a bit ridiculous. I mean seriously, Canadians basically running the world? But it seemed ridiculous to the characters from 2011 too, so it was funny. I liked how there was confusion for the reader and many questions for most of the book, I mean this is the first in a series. The biggest question regarding Summer and her situation is answered towards the end, which was enough to satisfy the reader, but enough to make the reader eager for the second novel.