Book Review: DAMSELFLY by Jennie Bates Bozic

A few months ago, while browsing a writing forum I belong to––I came across a post by author Jennie Bates Bozic.  It contained her  “successful query letter”, one that helped her nab an agent.  After reading the letter, I remember thinking, “I can’t wait until that book is in print so I can read it myself.”

Last month, I was lucky enough to come across another post by Jennie, this time she was looking for readers to review the very same book in exchange for an honest review.  Yes!  I love reviewing books, and I hadn’t forgotten DAMSELFLY.  I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) from Jennie and I read the entire thing in one sitting.  But before I get into my review, here is a brief description of DAMSELFLY from Jennie Bates Bozic’s website:

In 2065, the Lilliput Project created Lina – the first six-inch-tall winged girl – as the solution to a worldwide energy and food crisis. Isolated in a compound amidst the forests of Denmark, Lina has grown up aware of only one purpose: learn how to survive in a world filled with hawks, bumblebees, and loneliness. However, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she discovers that she’s not the only teenager her size. Six “Toms” were created shortly after Lina, and now her creators need to prove to the world that tiny people are the next logical step in human evolution. In other words, they need to prove that reproduction is possible.

Um. No thanks. Lina’s already fallen in love with a boy she met online named Jack. Only he has no idea that thumbelina1847 could literally fit inside his heart.

When her creators threaten to hurt Jack unless she chooses a husband from among the Toms, Lina agrees to star in a reality TV series. Once the episodes begin to air, the secret of her size is out. Cut off from any contact with the outside world, Lina assumes Jack is no longer interested. After all, what guy would want to date a girl he can’t even kiss?

Slowly, very slowly, she befriends the six young men who see her as their only ticket to happiness. Perhaps she can make just one guy’s dream of love and companionship come true. But her creators have a few more twists in store for her that she never thought possible. She’s not the only one playing to the cameras.

What appealed to me on the outset was how unique it sounded:  One part Thumbelina, one part futuristic sci-fi, one part reality TV, and one part young romance all rolled into one.  I didn’t know how it was all going to work, but I was fascinated.

DAMSELFLY doesn’t disappoint, it jumps right in, sucking you into Lina’s world and personal struggles in a way that anyone can relate to (note:  the book is intended for  young adults and I am a grown woman with teenagers…it didn’t matter, I could understand Lina’s frustration, wants, and needs).

Her online relationship with Jack is told in a series of flashbacks that weave well into the rest of the story.  They meet in a virtual reality chat room, where Lina appears wingless and the same size as everyone else.  She and Jack fall in love in a believable series of encounters where their close friendship develops into romance.  Lina never summons the guts to tell him she’s a tiny 6-inch girl with wings.  I mean, who could?  It’s too wild for anyone to believe.  Before she can confess to Jack about her size and true nature, she is cut off from all contact with him.

Lina is then outed on an international reality TV show Jack will probably see.  She’s forced to take part in a matchmaking program where she must choose to marry one of six “Toms” she’s presented with.  While she’s intrigued to meet other boys her age, that have wings and are her size, she can’t forget Jack or get over him easily, yet she’s reconciled to the idea that he probably now knows about her smallness and would no longer be interested in her.  I like the scenes involving the show because they seemed to poke fun a bit at this kind of programing, making a point of how contrived and fake they can be, which amused me.

There is some science involved in the story, but nothing to overwhelm a reader, and while there aren’t too many details about how or why this future is the way it is, there isn’t anything missing by not having it all explained.  However, there is a little bit of a disconnect when it comes to how much poverty and starvation is in the world compared to how much  money is being spent on the Lilliput Project and the reality TV show, which is never explained and could have used more clarity, even if just to say, “People have their priorities messed up.”  My only other disappointment in the story in general is my wish, as a reader, that Lina had spent more time with each “Tom”, so we could know them better.  The story only focuses on a few, so it was hard to understand their characters as much as I would have liked.  Despite my minor criticisms, I enjoyed the book a great deal.  I found it engrossing and impossible to put down.  A lot happens that is unexpected, and there are some interesting twists at the end that (hopefully) leave room for sequels, which I would read with enthusiasm.

DAMSELFLY is scheduled for release on November 11, 2013.

Jennie Bates Bozic’s Website, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.