Sterling Wayfairer has one goal for his senior year: make his mark. He’s been slipping into the background his whole high school career—distracted by his mother’s mental health, unsettled by the vivid dreams that haunt him at night, and overshadowed by the athletic accomplishments of his popular best friends. But this year is going to be different. He’s going to break a few rules, have some fun, and maybe even work up the nerve to ask his crush out on a date. But things don’t go exactly as planned. Students are disappearing, Sterling starts losing time, and it all seems to center around Tetra, a girl no one else seems to notice but him. When he finally tracks her down for answers, they aren’t what he expects: He and Tetra hail from a world called Noba, and they’re being hunted by a Naga, a malevolent shapeshifter that’s marked them for destruction. Tetra and Sterling have distinct abilities that can help them fight back, but their power depends heavily on the strength of their bond, a connection that transcends friendship, transcends romance. Years apart have left their bond weak. Jumpstarting it will require Sterling to open his heart and his mind and put his full trust in the mysterious Tetra. If he doesn’t, neither of them will survive.
The Mark of Noba is like two books in one. The first 25% (I know the exact number thanks to my kindle) is the typical speculative fiction where the lead (Sterling) is told by his mentor/ally (Tetra) that he’s from another planet, and he has special powers and something evil may be after him.
Then, the next 50% is more like a Young Adult fish-out-of-water story, as Sterling and Tetra explore their friendship, Sterling tries to understands his powers, and Tetra tries to understand the foreign world called high school. What set NOBA apart was Sterling’s first person POV. I can’t remember laughing so hard, especially with a fantasy. Who knew the two terms laughing and fantasy could go hand in hand.
For the last 25%, we are back in speculative fiction land where the good guys battle the evil villain.
GL Thomas aka the Dos Twinjas are bad ass advocates for diverse fiction. And they walk the walk. Since Tetra is not native to the earth like planet called Geo, we get to explore gender issues, the use of the term slut, and bullying.
What I liked
The humor and the totally relatable first-person POV of Sterling.
The relationship between Tetra and Kipp.
The writing style.
What I didn’t like
I was heavily invested in the Tetra and Kipp’s relationship, but we didn’t get to experience the break up as we should have. It was as if the writers remembered this is speculative fiction and not romance or contemporary fiction, so the break-up was cut out in edits. –if this is true, maybe we can get those scenes in the director’s cut–
The pacing, the middle has no tension, and almost no mention of the bad guy (The Naga), but I really enjoyed getting lost in the high schoolness of it all, which I usually hate. In fact, I was having trouble writing Coal Book 2 because I did not want to write high school scenes. But the Mark of Noba is an example of how to do high school and teenagers right.
The skin color definitions (Type 1, Type 2, Type 3) in the beginning were unusual. It took me out of the story and made me think, but I’m not sure if its good, bad, or doesn’t really matter.
I highly recommend The Mark of Noba. It was an easy read with lots of good stuff. Despite the lack of tension, I never got bored. In fact, I Laughed Out Loud plenty of times.