Friday, September 10, 2010

Sci Fi Friday Review: Girl Parts by John M. Cusick

Found Via: Lynn at Goodreads

When this popped up in my Goodreads friends update e-mail with four stars from Lynn (who reviews over at Bookends), I knew I had to read it. Even without a longer review attached, I've learned to trust Lynn's judgment, especially when it comes to science fiction.

Girl PartsDavid is athletic and outgoing, the sort of guy that everyone wants to be friends with - unless you're lower on the high school social totem pole. Then he can make your life hell. Charlie is the opposite, quiet and bookish. But both are diagnosed with dissociative disorders that keep them from making real friends and developing healthy relationships. David's obnoxiously rich parents go the high tech therapy route, presenting David with a companion, a female-presenting android carefully calibrated with intimacy protocols to help David understand healthy relationships. Charlie, being less well off and living off the grid with his dad, chooses to skip the companion treatment, even after it's recommended by the school's new psychologist, Dr. Rogers.

When David discovers he can't go as far as he wants with his companion, Rose, he rejects her, sending the poor companion-girl into a depressive spiral. When Charlie discovers her, abandoned and rejected, he's surprised to discover she's the only "person" he can really talk to, and like a good friend he wants to do everything he can to help Rose get over David and become a more fully-realized individual.

This is definitely a light book in more ways than one. Cusick really could have delved a lot deeper into the characters and this whole companion technology. The story holds up fine on its own without more details, but it certainly would have been a richer, and more science fiction-y, experience with more details.

While this is ostensibly a boy book, with most of the story focusing on David and Charlie, my favorite characters were definitely the girls. Is this just because I've never been a high school boy? Perhaps. But Cusick does a great job developing Rose from a stilted robot to something resembling a real girl. And then there's her sudden BFF Rebecca, who gets Rose drunk to help her forget David. It doesn't work so well, but it's a fun bit of friendship. And then May, the black market technician who jailbreaks companions like others jailbreak iPhones. At first I thought she was going to be totally creepy (she overrides the intimacy protocols so boys don't get shocks when they try to go farther with their companions than they should), but May makes it very clear she believes in the girl's right to choose her boundaries - and gives Rose an extra special parting gift. May totally stole the show for me.

This is a great bit of fluffy science fiction that will easily appeal to boys and girls. It's fun satire of intimacy and internet culture, but stays in the shallow end of the pool.
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