Young Adult - Sci-Fi
288 Pages
Reviewed on 02/18/2018
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Author Biography

J. A. Darmanin has always been inspired by science, history, and literature. Her curiosity led her out of a small northern Canadian mining town and across the world.

Darmanin now resides in Florida. She has hosted a public radio program providing services and news to the blind. Darmanin enjoys reading, attending theater performances, and boating. She is already dreaming up the next big adventure to bring her readers.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Gaia by JA Darmanin is a spellbinding blend of young adult and epic fantasy, a story that explores the realm of the supernatural. We meet Vicky Sobin, a sixteen-year-old girl with a mother who has been unresponsive since the birth of the young girl. If only Vicky could get life back into her mother and get her to heal! Her answer could be found in a stranger, Troy, who claims to be her twin brother. Vicky doesn’t want to believe him, but desperation pushes her to become more curious about this alien claiming to be her kin. Troy was the only hope for Gaia, his planet, now on the brink of a deadly war. He’s failed his own people. Now he wants Vicky’s help in exchange for a cure for her mother. But can she trust him and what if he isn’t what he claims to be? The stakes are high, but what follows will blow the reader’s mind.

Skillfully plotted and written to perfection, Gaia is a huge success, a story with characters that readers will love. The story starts with a powerful and irresistible premise — a young girl condemned to care for an unresponsive mother. The reader understands the depth of her frustration and the fact that she’d jump at any opportunity to save her mother. Upon this premise, a spellbinding story is told, filled with unexpected twists, mind-jarring surprises, and exciting turns. JA Darmanin is a great writer and this work features powerful elements in the genre. From the polished prose to the interesting dialogues to the gripping plot, the story had me gripped throughout.

K.J. Simmill

Vicky is a twin, only she never knew it until Troy appeared on the hill that day. In fact, she wasn't the only one not to realise it. Her own parents had no idea of his existence. He had been a experiment, carried out by a race desperate to save their own kind. To do so, they impregnated Earth females. Vicky had been a complication, her mother hadn't meant to be pregnant, but this complication may now be their only hope. Vicky could never remember her mother being well - she was always distant, lost in her own world - but now with Troy's arrival she understands why. Vicky agrees to help him, to return to Gaia with him, on one condition: they cure her mother. But Vicky may have bitten off more than she can chew, and since her best friend, Ming, decided to come along for the journey, she has more to worry about than just the fate of an entire world; she has her friend's safety to consider as well.

Gaia by JA Darmanin is a steady paced space opera written in the first person perspective of Vicky. This is her story, based around the threat of war coming to Gaia, the home planet of Troy, her twin brother. The attention to detail and writing style make it ideal for the young adult market, and science fiction fans will find enough to tantalise their taste buds with technologies and ideas that are as brilliant as they are inspiring, not to mention a touch of intergalactic travel. Vicky, Ming, and Troy show some good development through the plot progression, more noticeable in Troy as he starts to 'get the hang' of Earth slang and dialect. Action, adventure, hostilities, and discovery will hold a reader's attention, especially those who enjoy a UFO adventure with undertones of conspiracy.

Liz Konkel

Gaia by J.A. Darmanin is a thrilling science fiction adventure. Vicky Sobin would do anything to heal her mother from the mysterious ailment which has made her unresponsive for years. Even trusting a stranger claiming to be her brother. He reveals his own shocking origins: he's an alien from a planet called Gaia and the result of an experiment on her mother. He offers her a chance to heal her mother on the condition she returns with him to Gaia to undergo a series of tests and help prevent a war with another world. Her best friend, Ming, joins her on the journey to an unknown world. When the Araneans attack, Vicky and Ming are horrified to learn they won't be able to return home unless they can find a way to win the war.

The plot is primarily driven by Vicky's relationships. Ming is the one that supports her decision to go to this other planet and fully jumps into the chaos with her. Vicky finds a lot of her strength from her friend and often looks to her for advice. She's willing to do whatever it takes to save her mother, which is the only reason she even agrees to go with her brother in the first place. The tension revolves around her being thrown into this whole new world, but a source of the friction comes from her cultural differences with Troy and how she often blames him for what happened to her mother. As events unfold, Vicky discovers more about his role on Gaia, which further develops his character and allows for a real connection to form with him. Troy is both alien and human so he's subjected to a different form of treatment on Gaia and is viewed as a failed experiment, which makes him a sympathetic character. He has a serious personality which reflects the some what sterile detachment of this world.

Everyone on Gaia seems to be largely detached from each other. There aren't any families or personal relationships. Troy explains how telepathy is the biggest form of communication so his desperation to meet Vicky and get to know his family is an interesting contrast to the world he's from. J.A. Darmanin explores an intriguing concept through Vicky finding the similarities Gaia has to earth, comparing how human society is obsessed with social media and phones to how Gaia uses telepathy. Gaia is different than what I expected, given the name. Darmanin flips the idea of a green and thriving place to a detached planet with a reliance on highly advanced technology. Gaia is a coming of age journey exploring the bonds of family, bravery, friendship, and power.

Arya Fomonyuy

In Gaia by JA Darmanin, Vicky Sobin has only one thing that occupies her mind — her ailing mother, who has been unresponsive ever since Vicky was born. But everything is about to change with the visit from a stranger who calls himself Troy and who claims to be her brother. His own world is in tatters and having failed his people back on Gaia, he needs Vicky’s help in exchange for a cure for her mother. As irresistible as this invitation seems, Vicky has her misgivings. How can she trust a total stranger, but what if this is the only chance of saving her mother?

The charm and magic of the writing got me, and I couldn’t stop reading, marvelling at the apt descriptions, the natural conversations, and the well-crafted scenes. Here is a way the author captures an emotion in the beginning of the novel: “A groan of agony rumbles in my throat and my head digs deeper into the pillow.” The writing is balanced and the author has a rare economy of words that will delight readers. The characters are three-dimensional and it is fascinating to notice how the author pairs conflicting emotions in the characters. For instance, the protagonist is torn between following a total stranger who claims to be her twin, and the safety of a mother she is anxious to help. The characters are real, and even the extraordinary things that happen in the story are written into the flesh of real humans. Great pacing, a strong conflict, and cunning plot developments are among the elements that make this read an exceptional one.

Rabia Tanveer

Gaia by J.A. Darmanin is a fantastic novel that made me feel like I was watching an awesome science fiction movie rather than reading a book. The novel follows the story of Vicky Sobin, a 16-year-old girl whose life changes when a stranger suddenly comes into her life. Since the day Vicky was born, her mother has been catatonic. Her body might be here, but her mind is somewhere else so she does not respond to anything. Vicky’s greatest wish in life is to talk to her mother just once and feel the mother-daughter bond.

Her life changes completely when she encounters Troy, a guy claiming to be her twin brother. However, there is a catch. Troy is an alien and comes from a strange planet called Gaia. Troy claims that his planet is at war and he is supposed to be the saving grace of his people, but he has failed them. Now he believes that Vicky is the last hope of their people, but is it really true? Can she trust him? But he has not left her a choice, especially when he promises to save her mother. Can she do it? Can she save an alien race?

Brilliantly developed, the novel becomes a living, breathing creature that lives in your mind. I loved reading about the characters, how they reacted and what they did to survive. I loved the chemistry between Vicky and Ming; these best friends stuck together and gave each other everything. The mystery behind Troy, Gaia and Vicky’s mother was so intense and had me reading more. I loved this book. Really enjoyable!