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October 14, 2019

Potency by Aubrey Hadley ~ a Review

by MK French


Harper is a seventeen-year-old girl living in Reno, Nevada. She is homeschooled and feels that her mother is overly strict, so they frequently butt heads when she sneaks out to play soccer with friends. She doesn't pay much attention to news about the Maasai Mara Sleeping Sickness, an illness that induces euphoria and then lethargy before killing its victims. At least, not until it comes to her neighborhood.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

October 2019; Ruby & Topaz Publishing
ebook, print (415 pages); YA, fantasy
While the official summary sets up the mystery of the sleeping sickness and introduces Harper as the main character, that takes up the first third of the book. We see a lot about Harper and her family, and it's very much a slice of life and a realistic look into a teenager's life. However, once the sickness reaches Reno, the weirdness takes over and there is a distinct shift away from the everyday life and closer to the sci-fi. This probably isn't a huge spoiler, but Harper is actually an alien hybrid, and there is a significant element of body horror when her human skin is taken from her and her appearance changed without her consent. The Leveling process of introducing hybrids to others after they are in isolation for a period of time smacks of gaslighting and torture, which is off-putting for me.

Once Harper and the other hybrids are allowed into the city proper, there is definitely more suspense as she and her new friends bond and try to figure out the purpose to the secrecy and the monitoring that is done. That part feels more like other teenage dystopia novels, as it's up to a few teenagers to figure out a conspiracy and make a break for it, with a nebulous figure in charge that are potentially enemies. It's engaging, and I was easily drawn into the struggle.

There are rather dramatic shifts in the tone of this story, as it moves through several genres of teen novel. That in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, as there are clearly demarcated shifts in the sections of the story and most of them make sense. This is book one of a series, so the ending isn't as clean-cut as I would generally like it. This isn't a cliffhanger ending, which would be worse, but there's a general sense of incompleteness at the end of it for Harper and her friends.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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