A teen and his friends brave a grueling competition to save humanity in Oakley’s YA SF series opener.
In a war-ravaged, near-future world, scientists have discovered that evil is contained in the human body’s easily extractable “agonistons,” or “devil particles.” Those devil particles have to go somewhere—stashing them in a secure bunker proved disastrous, so the scientists conclude that they must be contained in a human vessel, someone who can control all of the evil inside of them. Paul Salvage feels he was born to be the Devil Particle Vessel. The 17-year-old will get his chance if he triumphs at the upcoming Vessel Trials. The government invites a group of youngsters to the Trials, all prospective Vessels possessing a “solid core of goodness,” including Paul and some other people he knows. All they have to do is reach the 52nd floor of a skyscraper—the one with the most points at the end will be selected as the Vessel. But as the competitors don’t know exactly how they’ll score or lose points, the journey upward promises to be an unpredictable and dangerous challenge. As Paul and the others make their way to the top via elevator or rickety ladder, they’re never sure if what they encounter is part of the competition. The author develops characters exceedingly well: The participants aren’t as wholesome as they may appear—some hide selfish and/or vicious tendencies. Paul regularly commits “acts of random kindness,” but is it only to earn a place in the Trials? The first-rate supporting cast includes Paul’s older, warmhearted brother, Asher, and Paul’s girlfriend, Jaelyn, whose deceased scientist parents discovered the devil particles. Oakley couples a brisk narrative pace with concise dialogue and short scenes that keep the characters moving (“I cringe as the mirror splits into three massive pieces. Somehow, they’re still attached to the ceiling. For now”). While the action slows down in the final act, the story ends with a fantastic denouement and a tantalizing sequel tease.
A captivating, thrilling tale with believably flawed characters.
Review #1: Review by K.C. Finn
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Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
The Devil Particle is a work in the thriller, suspense, and dystopia subgenres. It is intended for the young adult reading audience and contains some moderate use of adult language and brief references to violence. Penned by Kristin A Oakley, this gripping and enthralling drama takes us to a world where science has discovered that the root of all evil can be extracted from human beings but must be stored in human vessels once it has been acquired. So begin the Vessel Trials, where teenagers compete to become the ones who will save humanity by becoming The Devil Particle Vessel. Paul, grieving and withdrawn, is persuaded into the trials by a close friend, and there he hopes to prove his worth to the world and himself.
Kristin A Oakley has a fascinating concept for this captivating new YA novel; it draws you in immediately and never lets go throughout the reading experience. I enjoyed the pace and depiction of the many action scenes, which played out with such atmosphere and vivid multi-sensory cues that you begin to feel like you’re in a VR world, running, racing, and fighting alongside Paul and his fellow potential vessels. In addition, the explored interpersonal relationships are realized with unique dialogue personalized to each character. Finally, Paul’s emotional journey is well-paced with close, personal narration that feels realistic and well-crafted. Overall, The Devil Particle is an accomplished dystopian work with plenty of high-stakes action and a fantastic emotional core that readers will find gripping and moving.