Young Adult - Sci-Fi
502 Pages
Reviewed on 11/02/2022
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Author Biography

Hi, everyone! My name's Allison; I'm a streamer by morning, a mechanical engineer by day, and a writer by night. I started writing poems and stories at the age of 12; sharing my work with the world was a dream I never thought possible. When not writing, streaming, or working, I spend my time procrastinating, taking pictures of my frickin’ adorable cats, and drinking coffee while huddled under a fuzzy blanket.

SPVCE was inspired mainly by my struggles with anxiety and the pressure we put on kids in our modern-day education system. I really wanted to create a protagonist who has a very obvious, raw struggle with her mental health to raise more awareness on anxiety. Plus, I just wanted to see a character that I resonate with and relate to thrive in a cool sci-fi setting.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

SPVCE is a work of fiction in the science fiction and adventure subgenres. The work is aimed at the young adult readership and contains some mild explicit language, and was penned by A. W. Karen. This superb space-age adventure tale focuses on the budding career aspirations of protagonist Maci Layton, who is part of a universal program to train young people to be space cadets, preparing for a future beyond our broken planet. So begins a tale of combating anxiety and struggling with one’s place in society, especially in a society where all seems perfect, but the apparent perfection is masking a world on the brink of disaster.

A. W. Karen offers a bittersweet but apt allegory for the emotional state of our time, where the fate of the planet seems fragile indeed, and moments of optimism and inspiration are rare for the younger generation as they face the future. The close narrative centered on Maci delivers these delicate emotions perfectly, with dialogue and an atmosphere of high emotional intelligence. The work is well-poised to be accessible to young adult readers whilst also handling some more adult emotions and complex topics. The science-fiction setting holds up an exciting and adventurous mirror to our contemporary world, but without losing the core themes and feelings that make it so relevant for right now. I would recommend SPVCE to readers who enjoy sophisticated young adult works and emotionally conscious, character-led science fiction that doesn’t hold back.

Asher Syed

SPVCE by A.W. Karen is a dystopian science fiction novel set in a future where children are intensely conditioned for life away from Earth. It is centered around a young girl who is being slowly destroyed by the pressure and the way it impacts every aspect of her life. Maci narrates her own story in the first person. Her speech pattern is jagged and comes out in clipped, often incomplete sentences. There is a stream-of-consciousness feel to it but also a sense that she might be an unreliable narrator, which makes her abrupt manner of speaking more intriguing. Life on the limited number of space stations begins for a select class of teenagers, chosen as the best of the best in various areas to become a cadet. Each year the cadets rotate to the next station. Most kids are from the Academy, while Maci is not. She also suffers from the emotional trauma that manifests itself in a multitude of ways, the most prevalent being acute anxiety. It triggers easily and debilitates frequently. Maci nevertheless has an inner drive and a strong desire not to let others down, but it's only when she stops berating herself that she truly begins to blossom.

As a father to a daughter in her teens, the splintered parts of Maci's view of herself in SPVCE by A.W. Karen are heartbreaking. “I looked up at the mirror, into my eyes. My crazy. My mind. My anxiety. My failures.” You just want to bundle Maci up into your arms and tell her she is not crazy, and that she is worthy of anything and everything. It took some time to get into the story because Karen is intentionally methodical in dropping just enough information to hold the reader's interest, and the only perspective we get is that of Maci, and poor Maci is so very broken. She is not alone though and slowly she finds friends among those who seemed unlikely in the beginning. It also takes time for a reader to find their rhythm and settle in with Maci's voice. It takes shape despite the fragmented construct and begins to feel so normal that when somebody else is speaking it can almost put you off balance until they say something wonderful and we get a glimmer of hope for Maci. “I would never think that, Maci. You’re just… being human, is all.” A beautifully perfectly imperfect human. Recommended.

Jamie Michele

The young adult science fiction novel SPVCE by A.W. Karen goes deep down into the heart and soul of teen space cadet candidate Maci Layton. Maci has the world on her shoulders, and while it collapses within itself because humanity has destroyed it, it also crushes Maci mentally, physically, and emotionally with the demands that the carelessness of generations before has now levied on the generations after. There is no reprieve for Maci because she is the sole hope of her parents. If she makes it as a cadet, she gets off Earth and her parents will stay behind to live the rest of their own lives in financial security. If she doesn't, there are no other outs and no other chances. Like the program, the curriculum is brutal and the all-or-nothing training is inexorable. Maci's difficulties stretch far beyond the confines of her environment because they are rooted in something different. Chronic and acute anxiety and panic disorder, fixed and firm within Maci, controls every thought, doubt, idea, movement, and action.

SPVCE by A.W. Karen is a profoundly honest first-person point of view and conveys anxiety at its most catastrophic from the words of its most vulnerable. It would be easy to dress anxiety up and put a little dab of lipstick on her, focus on how Maci would be without anxiety, get her the guy, get her parents the money, and live happily ever after in space. Karen is merciful in not succumbing to the will of readers who fear ideation at the expense of authenticity. Authenticity, where teenagers are in space, is in short supply without sugarcoating true mental health issues. Karen is crafty because we are in Maci's confused and insecure head and we are rooting for her to make a success of this program and a future in space. We're rooting for her because we've been conditioned to pretend mental health issues can be 'overcome'. Take a pill, take a test, and be a hero; everyone wins. See where that dab of lipstick becomes problematic? SPVCE is rawly written and not everyone is going to be on board with Karen's literary style, but passing up this gem would be a mistake of universal proportions.

Vincent Dublado

If you haven’t read any young adult science fiction because you are unsure if this genre is for you, or perhaps you have read a few but didn’t really enjoy them, you owe it to yourself to check out SPVCE by A. W. Karen. At some point in the future, parents raise their children, where, from a young age, school and studying are the only things that children know. When children turn 10, they’re subjected to the SP10 Exam, which determines whether a child can survive rigorous space cadet training—those who fail are frowned upon. Young Maci Layton is part of this society where children are groomed for a life and career in outer space. No one seems to question what appears to be a utopian society, but when a line is crossed and when wicked things come in beautiful packages, it paves the way for a revolution.

I, for one, am selective when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy, and I am glad to discover that this book is worth reading. It gives brilliant psychological elements that you rarely find in stories in the YA sci-fi category, which makes SPVCE intriguing and original. How sane do you have to be to make it into space? The element of anxiety plays an essential role as A. W. Karen addresses this question within the narrative. While she discloses that the portrayal of anxiety in this story is based on her experience, so much of SPVCE is focused on Maci’s inner demons and motivation that even if she lives in a futuristic time, her concerns remain relatable. She is an exceptionally intuitive girl who keenly observes people, events, and situations that unfold before her. I sincerely recommend this work as a must-read for its brilliant study of anxiety and human nature in a futuristic time that is still not devoid of basic human problems.

Grace Ruhara

What would you trade to have an easy life for the rest of your remaining years on earth? In SPVCE by A.W. Karen, parents go to the extent of using their children to get monetary support from the government. They turn their children into robots whose lives are surrounded by books, hoping that space will bring them prosperity and freedom. All that is required is to pass the SP10 and SP15 examinations. The main character, Maci Layton, fails her SP10 exams, which upsets her parents. Luckily, she gets in after SP15. In no time, she finds herself in space. This does not work out as she expected. Did space offer freedom? This makes her think and question herself, which leads her to realize that her panic attacks are caused by anxiety. What is she anxious about, and how does it influence her relationships with her team cadets?

What I liked about SPVCE by A. W. Karen is the development of Maci Layton's character. I liked how fierce she is and that she does not allow anyone to undermine her. She stands her ground and roars like the lioness that she is. This trait was outstanding, and I could not help empathizing with her. I would want to be courageous and deal with my problems as she did. I also loved the vivid descriptions employed by the author throughout the novel. They helped me create a realistic mental picture of the space environment. It felt as if I were there with the characters in every scene. This made my reading experience enjoyable and memorable. I recommend this novel to space enthusiasts, as they would appreciate the science and effort that goes into sending humans into space.