Xodus, by K. J. McPike, is an action-packed young adult urban fantasy.
Lali Yavari can’t believe something she just witnessed. Was it a dream even though it seemed so real? It had to be a dream, she rationalizes. But when she continues to witness strange events and seeing people disappear, she can no longer deny something strange is going on and it’s not a dream.
When Kai Awana enrols in her school, Lali learns that she can astral project, an ability she inherited from her mother. Lali’s mother mysteriously left her family weeks before. Kai needs Lali’s help to travel to a world she never knew existed. In return, he promises to help find her mom, but can Lali trust Kai?
The author has crafted the story around a trope that isn’t as well known as other subgenres in young adult fantasy novels that have flooded the market over the last ten years. And it works. Astral projection allows individuals to travel via an out-of-body experience when the astral body separates from the physical body. This device allows McPike to create an urban fantasy that feels fresh and original, even though the concept isn’t new. In fact, historical records from centuries ago have documented incidents. But it hasn’t been overused by fiction authors and McPike should be commended for utilizing astral projection in Xodus.
While McPike’s use of astral projection makes the story feel new, she wisely sticks to other aspects of traditional young adult novels. The pages are filled with teenage angst. Lali recently celebrated her sixteenth birthday. Not only is she coping with her new ability and her mother’s disappearance, she’s also dealing with being a teenager in school and at home. Her everyday life adds a bit of normalcy for readers to latch onto, helping them connect with Lali the teen. This connection is especially needed since many readers may not be overly familiar with her special abilities. But most young adult readers can relate to high school difficulties, stressful situations involving friends, and family woes.
And of course, McPike has included a budding and troubled romance. Even during normal times, romance is never easy. But Lali is experiencing extraordinary situations and stress, so the growing romance makes her feel conflicted, excited, and scared. It doesn’t help that her love interest isn’t entirely trustworthy. However, all the conflict revolving around the romance adds to the tension of the story and amplifies the suspense in an already thrilling read.
All of the revolving components in Xodus come together neatly for the most part. This is the first book in the Astralis series so not all the questions are answered, but there’s enough resolution for the big issues and the author has left delightful clues as to what readers can expect in the next installment. It promises to be just as exciting as the first book.
McPike’s novel is a welcome addition to the YA urban fantasy genre and it includes enough tantalizing twists and turns to captivate readers, transforming them into instant fans.