It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together.
But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.
Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?
Okay, if your review is going to talk about your main character having to part with her love forever, maybe you shouldn’t dispatch of the entire school experience in the first 10% of the book. Literally, we get one scene with Amanda and Abe before she’s whisked off to join the Annum Guard. It doesn’t allow us to connect with the characters or their relationship, and just doesn’t form a great first impression. That sense of incomplete development extends to hook of the story. McCardle goes to great pains to make it clear that no one graduates as a junior, but then Amanda does. Why? Umm…Reasons? The guy who did the best on Testing Day in like, ever, got chosen as a Senior. Amanda failed her test, and apparently being (to use Alpha’s own words) “proactive” in the second test is enough to give her the pass through as a junior. I kept waiting for a legitimate plot related reason to bring her into the fold early, but if it was ever put in there, I must have missed. As it stands, it just gives the character a faint whiff of Mary Sue, and that’s a shame because she really isn’t. And we know she really isn’t because she commits a rather large sin in my eyes to make her seem more capable:
She dumbs down other characters.
When we first meet Yellow, she’s presented as your basic snotty bitch. But, this bitch has a solid year and a half of experience, and these kids all seemed to have been trained at the same CIA prep academy that Amanda did, and so when she goes on her first solo mission, it feels like Yellow gets all vapid so we can see how clever Amanda is. It feels that much more obvious when in the rest of the book Yellow actively helps Amanda and proves that she is, in fact, quite smart and shows that she thinks much further ahead than she did in that mission.
Anyways there’s a big conspiracy and it’s up to Amanda (and Yellow, who joins her cause) to help unravel it. It honestly felt kind of silly and the use of the time travel mechanic never was impressive as it could have been, with so much of the story getting tied up in the conspiracy plot.
Overall, we have a book with weak character development and a plot that could have done so much more with its hook than it did. It’s a disappointment.
Verdict: Skip it