The Pioneer: Book Review

The Pioneer is a fantastic and harrowing YA science fiction novel, that is sure to please fans of Lost in Space, taut science fiction thrillers, and lovers of game changing plot twists.
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Pioneer
Bridget Tyler
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Synopsis: When Jo steps onto planet Tau Ceti e for the first time, she’s ready to put the past behind her and begin again. After all, as a pioneer, she has the job of helping build a new home away from Earth.

But underneath the idyllic surface of their new home, there’s something very wrong. And when Jo accidentally uncovers a devastating secret that could destroy everything they’ve worked for, suddenly the future doesn’t seem so bright.

With the fate of the pioneers in her hands, Jo must decide how far she’s willing to go to expose the truth—before the truth destroys them all.

The Pioneer is the kind of book that reminds me why I love YA science fiction. It tackles some heavy subjects (loss, colonization, etc.), all while keeping a sense of wonder and youth through the eyes of its characters.

While the Earth Restoration Project is helping to fix our broken world, a new planet must still be found to accommodate the ever-growing population. Enter the Watson family. Brilliant and brave, this family will lead the Pioneer and its crew to the new planet of Tau Ceti E, which the International Space Agency heralds as a paradise for humans. But when tragedy strikes the launch, the Watsons are left broken and reeling before they set out for their new planet. Joanna Watson, once the star cadet pilot of the mission, now must face her new life on Tau Ceti E without her brother and without the ability to fly. But soon Joanna finds her life on Tau Ceti E might not be as perfect as the ISA promised. Soon she finds out, she and the rest of the pioneers might not be able to live on Tau Ceti E at all.

Bridget Tyler’s world building is nothing short of fascinating. The wildly imaginative world of Tau Ceti E constantly had new surprises as the story unfolded and served as the perfect setting for Jo’s story. While Jo slowly uncovers the mysteries of her new home, the world around her grows deeper and more terrifying. The use of the world to mirror the growing tension in the story is *chef’s kiss* perfection.

As the mysteries of this new world are explored, Jo faces a lot of internal battles that will speak to many. Having lost her brother in a desperate attempt to save the initial launch of the Pioneer, Jo faces survivor’s guilt, a diagnosis that takes away her ability to fly ships, and the internal crumbling of her once strong family. Jo’s struggle to find who she is in this new world (both the physical and emotional) will resonate with readers, even though it is told through extraordinary circumstances.

The tension of the story was what I found most compelling. Space and alien planets are SCARY y’all, and there is nothing I love more than witnessing our intrepid space explorers realize this. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe, but I like what I like. With the exception of a few bits of slow pacing due to some plot twisty world building, Tyler expertly keeps the story line taught and thrumming with tension. I never wanted to put the book down and even found myself reading during times I normally wouldn’t read. All the way up until the final lines of the story, something new and chaotic was brewing, and I always wanted to know what it was.

There are two reasons why this wasn’t a perfect 5 stars for me. First, I felt that some of the characters were a bit one-dimensional. It was almost like they were only built to serve the plot, instead of being an organically created character that works within the story. There were also some moments that felt a bit contrived and too easy. Which, to be fair, A LOT happens in this story and not everything is going to feel perfectly natural and logical to everyone, but there were just some moments of “well, of course that happened”.

All told, The Pioneer has become one of my favorite YA science fiction novels. After that kicker of an ending, I am dying to read the next book, which thankfully comes out today (March 10, 2020). If you like science fiction, even if it’s only a little bit, I highly recommend checking out The Pioneer.

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