Natural Selection by Malinda Lo
Series: Adaptation #1.5
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 3 2013
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Novella, LGBT
Rating: 3/5 stars
I was born on Earth, not Kurra. I'm not human,even though I try to be. My people, the Imria, think I'm a little unusual because of that. They call me an Earthsider: as if I've crossed a line, chosen a side. Gone native.
Before she met her girlfriend Reese, before she knew the role she would play in the fate of two worlds, Amber was a fifteen-year-old Imrian torn between two identities. Imrian by blood, Amber was forced to hide her true self to pass as human during the time she spent on earth. And even when she returns to Kurra, her human experiences, including first love and heartache, still separate her from her fellow Imrians. But when Amber undergoes kibila, a traditional Imrian coming-of-age ceremony during which Amber will choose her name and identity for the next fifteen years, she will be forced to either accept her role in both worlds or forge her own path.
Novellas aren’t really my thing. I find they tend not to add anything of importance to the overall story, and I usually feel like they’re kind of a waste of time. That said, this is an example of everything novellas should be.
Natural Selection takes place a few years before the events of Adaptation, and follows my favourite character Amber through two very important events in her adolescent life – a middle school camping trip on Earth and a coming-of-age ritual on Kurra. The chapters alternate between both parts of Amber’s life and tell the story of how she chose the name Amber. I loved the integration of Amber’s human and Imrian identities. As an Imrian born and primarily raised on Earth, there is a constant conflict with Amber’s struggle to fit in, something she is incapable of in both settings. On Earth she is forced to contain herself, has to learn to keep out of the emotions of the people around her. She isn’t allowed to be who she really is, but she also stands out from her Imrian peers. Amber’s storyline on Earth really hit home for me, though I’ve never really experienced anything quite like that. I could definitely relate to the inevitable best friend crush every queer girl experiences. They suck, and Amber’s is particularly rough. It made me really feel for her and the difficulty of having to navigate two completely different societies with different sets of acceptable behaviours.
The Adaptation series is one I think about on a regular basis. It lingers in my mind and is one of the most memorable series I’ve ever read. I loved returning to this universe and learning more about Amber, whose perspective and history we really don’t learn much of in Reese’s books. It was a quick read that was just what I was in the mood for, and it perfectly struck the balance that novellas have to straddle between adding new and important information without being integral to the plot of the primary novels in the series. I’m definitely glad to have read this, if only to extend one of my favourite series. The fact that I’ve been kind of in love with Amber since Adaptation certainly doesn’t hurt it either. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who was craving a bit more from the Adaptation universe.