Mini Review: Control by Lydia Kang

Lydia Kang

Dial Books for Young Readers
Received an ARC through the Around the World ARC Tour
Releases December 26, 2013
400 pages
YA / Science Fiction / Superpowers

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An un-putdownable thriller for fans of Uglies

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn't even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.

A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.

I can’t imagine having four arms is the best superpower or being green and metabolizing sunlight like a human plant. While not the best superpowers, these odd and very specific mutations made for a really fun science fiction romp through a well-developed mad world. Lydia Kang has taken a somewhat done concept of mutants in the real world and added a unique quality with strange characters and the mystery of a missing sister.

Control opens with a gruesome car wreck that leaves Zel and her younger sister, Dyl, sudden orphans that are unknowingly being followed by the legacy of their scientist father’s secret life. After being separated at the equivalent of a foster home, Zel finds herself in a tower full of locked doors and mysterious mutant inhabitants, but without her sister. The rest of the book finds Zel doing everything in her power to find and retrieve her sister from another group of misfit mutants who have more sinister plans.

Zyl is a scientific genius, able to manipulate genes and DNA to her will with antiquated equipment. She makes some pretty stupid choices, but I gave the character the benefit of the doubt of being blinded by her sister being in harm’s way. The supporting characters are all distinct personalities and become more than just their mutation. Toss in a love-him-hate-him romance with a tattooed standoffish teen scientist and you have everything you need twisted into an intriguing and captivating story with characters I didn’t want to leave.

Kang brings realistic science to her story, which is a surprising element for a science fiction YA title. Despite all the science jargon, story pacing doesn’t get body slammed against a wall of science speak, but weaves around it so that pacing steadily increases while pumping up the science part of the scifi. With her personal background in medicine, Kang goes into what seemed to me as moderately intricate geneticist speak and makes sense of it for someone like me, who never made it much past college biology. This added confidence in the knowledge of the author allowed me to really enjoy the science pieces without pondering the accuracy.

In a culture full of superpowers, Control takes some of the more well-known tropes of super strength, hyper intelligence, and healing, tweaks them with slightly stranger elements and creates an exciting story with engaging characters. Even though I read tons of superhero comics, this take on superpowers felt new and original, which made the entire thing more fun to read. I made it through this book in two sittings (and that’s only because I had to work). It’s a fast read and presents the start of a much larger mystery. I look forward to seeing where Kang takes the series.


I received a copy of this book in advance through the Around the World ARC tour.