Author: Sarah Noffke
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
As far as I know, Defects is Sarah Noffke’s fourth published novel, which is (from what I’ve heard) eerily similar to her first trilogy, The Lucidites. This is the first time I’ve read one of her works. When I received her email, I immediately replied (and quite enthusiastically, if I may add) because damn it to hell, the book’s synopsis is insanely intriguing. The concept of Dream Travelers was very foreign to me, and I wanted to know more about them! Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed in the least.
Dream Travelers, as the name suggests, are able to travel anywhere as they dream. While their physical bodies are asleep, their incorporeal beings are free to roam the real world. Essentially, they’re actually there, just not in the same dimension as ordinary people.
Seriously, am I even explaining this right? Whatever. In Austin Valley, all the Reverians are born Dream Travelers. Those who can’t dream travel are classified as Middlings. While Middlings are obligated to serve Reverians, the Reverians ensure their protection in return for their services. After all, aside from the ability to travel nonphysically, Dream Travels are also gifted superhuman abilities from the gods, thereby deeming them more superior in the community.
However, Em Fuller, a pure Reverian, is incapable of yielding any psychic power. Austin Valley’s society has labeled her as a Defect – one of the misfortunate Dream Travelers not gifted with the special abilities expected from their heritage. Desperately wanting nothing more than to earn her gift, Em lives the life of a laboratory rat: enduring painful injections and medications on a daily basis. With her family ridiculing her and nearly shunning her existence, Em has no one. Until one fateful day, a friend from her childhood past reenters her life. A friend whom everyone assumed to be dead. And with his return comes the knowledge of a shocking, heart-wrenching truth that shakes Em’s beliefs – in her unaffectionate father, in their leader, in their community and in herself – to the core.
Em’s family: I have mixed feelings about them. In her family, only Em’s little sister, Nona, and her grandmother (whom she fondly refers to as Tutu) treat Em with kindness and genuinely care about her well-being. The sisterly bond between Em and Nona is admirable. Nona is basically her partner in crime. She is also a Defect and is thus the most empathetic as Em struggles with gaining her powers. I love how Nona, despite her age, has her own brand of strength.
On the other hand, the rest of Em’s family isn’t as great. Her father is cruel and demeaning. Her mother is tactless and very pretentious; she comes off as a huge social climber. Her other sister, Dee, is just terrible and plain unlikable. I know that the idea is supposed to be Em getting mistreated by her own kin simply because she is a Defect and all, but I would have preferred to see just a hint of redeemable qualities. I think their characters could have been developed better. Still, I enjoyed reading about them nonetheless.
“A heart pumps blood. I obviously have one of those,” she says, smoothing back a strand of hair into her tight bun. “What I don’t have is this useless capacity for caring.”
The awesomeness that is Rogue: Honestly, I’m pretty sure I would have adored Rogue a lot more if he didn’t use the word “babe” every now and then. Personal pet peeve of mine, but I digress. He is a very intriguing love interest – what with his painful past, constant aura of mystery, playful arrogance, humorous quips and all.
Small confession: Whenever I read books to review, I tend to jot down notes and excerpts that I particularly loved. For Defects, 85% (give or take) of my notes are about Rogue. If that doesn’t indicate that he’s an engaging character, I don’t know what will.
I shake my head. Smile. “You don’t take yourself too seriously. Everyone here does. They run around looking for a reason to be offended. I think half the time they offend themselves by not following some etiquette.”
Rogue nods and allows a slight seriousness to creep into his eyes. It’s quickly whisked away by a mischievous smile. I’m growing accustomed to those smiles. I’m starting to enjoy them, although I probably shouldn’t. “That’s what you like best? You need to see me without my shirt on,” he says.
“If you make me sponge bathe you with a dead fish then I’m going to call out your sick fetish.”
He grips my elbow and pulls me into him. “I only have one obsession and I’m looking at her right now.”
The short-lived love triangle: I probably would have liked the novel more if the author didn’t attempt to create a love triangle between Em and her two male companions. Especially because it was ephemeral. I mean, the supposed “love triangle” wasn’t equilateral in the least. If anything, it was very much obtuse. Right off the bat, it was pretty blatant whom Em favored more. The other guy did not even stand a chance.
The essence of underlying truth throughout the story: More often than not, I found it strangely easy to identify myself with Em’s character. Even though I have zero Dream Traveling abilities and psychic powers. Frankly, I don’t think I’m the only one. Let’s face it. There’s been at least one point in our lives where we all felt like a Defect – grasping for a missing piece of ourselves, struggling with the inability to do certain things others can, feeling like the biggest disappointment in the world, believing that there is something inherently wrong with ourselves. It’s a truth that none of us can deny. And it is that same truth which makes Defects all the more appealing and engaging to read. As Em faces her demons, I see a reflection of myself. It is so effortless to put myself in her shoes simply because I’ve dealt with similar things in the past.
Not only is the book’s heroine easy to relate to, but Em Fuller also empowers – she inspires readers to find the same resolve and strength she needed in order to stand up for what she believed in, in order to finally break through the rose-tinted glass molded by their leader. Her character development in the novel was enlightening to read. Truly, Noffke writes with a sincerity that haunts readers emotionally, that keeps eyes captivated on her words.
Seriously, there have been plenty of instances in the book where I was just like:
I’m not ignorant. I’m not in a position where I’ll blindly allow myself to be manipulated. I’m a robot who has awoken to the realization that I’ve been damaged so I can’t perform, so I can’t take my rightful place within this society. And I don’t want to be damaged anymore.
“Sometimes the best thing about us isn’t what we’re gifted with, but what we can make others feel just by our very nature of existing.”
Insufficient revision and proofreading: As much as I wanted to completely immerse myself in Em’s plight and as much as I wanted to fall in love with the writing, the grammatical mistakes and awkward phrases prevented me from doing so. Certainly, this book needs more proofreading and better polishing. Although these flaws weren’t great in number, they were still distracting.
Which would explain the one star deduction in my rating. Some examples are as follows:
“Of course I am,” I say under my breath, smiling at him. “How many times you kissed Zack?“
“Oh, you scorn me.” Rogue grabs his chest like he’s suddenly pained. “You shouldn’t wipe away my love. Em knows better.” Rogue turns to me and plants a gentle kiss on my cheek, lingering a few second too long.
I also did not like the format of some dialogue (i.e. “You know, Nona,” I told her as we sat knee to knee on her bed, “no one sees the lion either, until it’s about to feast on them.” instead of “You know, Nona,” I told her as we sat knee to knee on her bed. “No one sees the lion either until it’s about to feast on them.”). But that’s mainly another personal pet peeve. Still, in spite of these things, I greatly enjoyed reading this book. I couldn’t put it down. And I am very eager to read more of Sarah Noffke’s works.
Recommended? Yes, especially for fans of the young adult, fantasy genre.
Excerpt from the book:
“Well, if the idea of that date came as a shock, then you probably don’t realize I’ve liked you since I could walk.”
He smiles, looking almost proud at causing that reaction in me. “If my nanny is to be believed then you’re who encouraged me to take my first step.” He pulls my hand up and directs it around his back so we’re closer. “She says I walked so I could get to you on the other side of the room. I don’t remember it, but it sounds like something I’d do.”
Being given this moment, hearing Rogue’s words, is a stolen dream. A forbidden one. One I never dared to have. And never before have I so badly wanted to be a criminal. “Are you kidding me?” I say, sliding my other hand around to his shoulder.
“I kid about a lot of things but how I feel about Em Fuller isn’t one of them.”