Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Dial Books
Review copy from Netgalley
The Fast and the Furious gets a futuristic twist in this action-packed debut!
On corporately controlled Castra, rally racing is a high-stakes game that seventeen-year-old Phoebe Van Zant knows all too well. Phee’s legendary racer father disappeared mysteriously, but that hasn't stopped her from speeding headlong into trouble. When she and her best friend, Bear, attract the attention of Charles Benroyal, they are blackmailed into racing for Benroyal Corp, a company that represents everything Phee detests. Worse, Phee risks losing Bear as she falls for Cash, her charming new teammate. But when she discovers that Benroyal is controlling more than a corporation, Phee realizes she has a much bigger role in Castra’s future than she could ever have imagined. It's up to Phee to take Benroyal down. But even with the help of her team, can a street-rat destroy an empire?
When I saw the promotional material for this novel compare it to Joss Whedon's legendary Firefly, I instantly knew I would have to read it. Firefly is not only one of my favorite shows, but arguably one of the best shows ever to grace television. I still find it difficult to understand it was cancelled and can just imagine how well it would do within the contemporary television environment. So yes, the Firefly reference made me very excited. And though this book directly isn't like Firefly, I did remind me of the show in some ways (the language, the racing aspect, the outsiders vs. the corporations), which I really enjoyed because any sort of reference to Firefly is a welcome one.
Phee lives in Castra, a planet controlled by six corporates. Following on the footsteps of her father who mysteriously disappeared when she was very young, Phee lives for rally racing. Along with her best friend Bear (Barrett), Phee participates in illegal races on the streets of Castra, constantly in fear of getting caught. When a race goes awry and Phee is taken into custody, she is forced to make a decision – either be sent to a juvenile delinquency center or joining the racing time of Charles Benroyal, one of the sixers and the owner of the Benroyal Corp. Both choices mean imprisonment for Phee and Bear, but at least the choice to race for Benroyal means that Phee can continue doing what she loves, even when she needs to work for someone that represents something she despites. As Phee gets deeper into the world of corporation racing, she realizes that Benroyal is controlling much more than just the corporation and soon it becomes her responsibility to reveal the truth to everyone and to take Benroyal down.
I LOVE Phee. She is strong, independent, funny and kickass. I feel like too often in YA books like this, the female heroine is instantly established as something special, as someone whose destiny it is to do a certain task. Phee definitely is special, but at the beginning of this novel, she's just a normal girl, trying to find her way around the dangerous side of Castra. After her father mysteriously disappeared, she has been living with Bear and his family. When she's taken into drive for Benroyal and the world of corporation racing, she is forced to change, but at the same time, she stays true to her values. She has been forced to work for the enemy, but at the same time, she has been given a chance to do what she really loves. Throughout this novel, I felt like Phee's confusement about what is right or wrong and how she should feel felt so realistic and honest. This confusement and facing difficult decisions made it much more easier to like and identify with Phee – she's not perfect but rather just trying to navigate her way in a world unknown to her. She knows her own strengths and flaws and most importantly, she is not afraid to speak for herself!
Though there's a hint of a love triangle here, I wasn't really put back by it since for the duration of the novel it is kind of obvious who the right guy for Phee is. The fact that she meets someone she never thought she would connect with helps in her character development and very quickly the scenes between Phee and Cash became my favorite ones. What I really appreciated is the fact that Martin mostly keeps the romance in the background and rather focuses on the story of Phee and her growth. Yes, I do love romance, but I also love awesome coming-of-age stories, especially when they focus on awesome kickass heroines.
Tracked is paced brilliantly and Martin's prose with its fast-paced description and witty banter made this one of those books that was just impossible to put down. The vivid characters and the dialogue between them is definitely something that reminded me of Firefly with its very distinctive characters and character relationships. I loved how the rally crew kind of became its own family unit (like the Serenity crew on Firefly). The way Martin builds this fictional world, explaining the politics of the corporations and the relations Castra has with other planets is well established. As I kept reading, I became so immersed with this world that I actually started to threat the ending of the novel. And really, I never thought I would be this excited about a book that focuses on racing – those who know me know that I don't care about cars AT ALL.
Goodreads does not mention yet whether this novel is a standalone or a part of a series. It could work as a standalone – the end is satisfying and leaves room for interpretation. I am really hoping though that this is a series because the way the novel ends leaves so much potential for a follow-up!
Tracked is definitely one of the best YA sci-fi novels I have read in a long time. With a likable protagonist, fast-paced plot and just a pinch of romance, it's a novel that kept me excited to turn the pages until the very end. Martin's worldbuilding is strong and vivid and I salute her creating such an awesome female protagonist. Tracked is a brilliant debut for an author I definitely want to read more from.