(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
You have two options. You die, or you Qualify.
The year is 2047. An extinction-level asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, and the descendents of ancient Atlantis have returned from the stars in their silver ships to offer humanity help.
But there’s a catch.
They can only take a tiny percent of the Earth’s population back to the colony planet Atlantis. And in order to be chosen, you must be a teen, you must be bright, talented, and athletic, and you must Qualify.
Sixteen-year-old Gwenevere Lark is determined not only to Qualify but to rescue her entire family.
Because there’s a loophole.
If you are good enough to Qualify, you are eligible to compete in the brutal games of the Atlantis Grail, which grants all winners the laurels, high tech luxuries, and full privileges of Atlantis Citizenship. And if you are in the Top Ten, then all your wildest wishes are granted… Such as curing your mother’s cancer.
There is only one problem.
Gwen Lark is known as a klutz and a nerd. While she’s a hotshot in classics, history, science, and languages, the closest she’s come to sports is a backyard pool and a skateboard.
This time she is in over her head, and in for a fight of her life, against impossible odds and world-class competition—including Logan Sangre, the most amazing guy in her class, the one she’s been crushing on, and who doesn’t seem to know she exists.
Because every other teen on Earth has the same idea.
You Qualify or you die.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Now, from the description of this novel you may be getting the impression that Qualify is one of those awful Divergent-Hunger Games hybrid novels that publishers think all teens want (again). That’s not really the truth, though. Qualify takes some of the good aspects of Hunger Games without the whiny factor of Divergent and makes something completely new and interesting.
Gwen Lark is really a klutz and a nerd. When she takes many of the tests to officially qualify as one of the ten million humans aged 12-19 that the Atlanteans will save, she really does fail quite a few of the physical exams. Sure, she gets better throughout the training and she really has to work hard at it, but she knows she’ll never be the number one candidate anywhere. In this way, it’s a lot more realistic than someone who goes from nerd straight to jock who can kick butt. But Gwen isn’t just a bumbling nerd; she’s got hidden talents that she’s terrified and really embarrassed about. When these come to light, they change almost everything for her.
One of the things that Vera Nazarian does is write long books that still hold a reader’s interest. Qualify is over 600 pages but you shouldn’t let that intimidate you because it really does keep your interest the whole way through. Sure, some things start out a little stereotypical in the beginning but Nazarian’s amazing descriptive style takes over and things smooth out pretty quickly. She really does focus a lot on inner conflict as well as interpersonal conflicts so if you’re looking for constant action, you’re looking in the wrong place. This is a really great look not only at the lives of regular teens under extraordinary circumstances but also a look at how the world really would handle a doomsday scenario like the one presented. At first there would be every effort to destroy or divert the asteroid, there would be collaboration with the mysterious Atltanteans who just showed up, etc. But after that? Things go back to an uneasy calm before the storm as people go into denial and then explode in anger at their impending doom. All the while, millions of teenagers are competing for the coveted 10 million worldwide spots. It’s horrific and fascinating at the same time.
While the characters and descriptions were great and the world-building was good, one of the things I noticed was a little rough was voice. The descriptions of Gwen’s surroundings are amazing and the descriptions of Atlantean technology are good as well but Gwen’s voice is a little rough. Sometimes her dialogue is incredibly mature for her age (16 bordering on 17) and other times she speaks and acts like a stereotypical teenager. It makes reading Qualify a little jarring at times and I think this could have been improved with a few more cuts to unnecessary passages. There is very little fluff in Nazarian’s story here but when there is fluff and filler you really do notice it. If Gwen’s voice had been a little more consistent, this would have been an absolutely amazing novel. Instead, it stays at ‘good’ or ‘above average’. However, having read just one of Nazarian’s other works, I think things will improve with the next book as she gets a handle on her new characters and new world because Gwen’s voice was much more consistent near the end.
So overall the writing is good if choppy in sections, Gwen is a well-defined main character with complicated thoughts, emotions and goals and the world-building is a little vague but there are some hints at amazing detail later on for Gwen and the readers to discover. Things get pretty intense sometimes and even though this book is around 600 pages, you’ll want to read it in one sitting. I know I did.
I give this book 4/5 stars.