All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

on September 14, 2018

Jinxed (Jinxed #1)
Amy McCulloch
Simon & Schuster UK
2018, 323p
Copy courtesy Simon & Schuster AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Lacey Chu has big dreams of becoming a companioneer for MONCHA, the largest tech firm in North America and the company behind the  “baku” – a customisable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion too. When Lacey finds out she hasn’t been accepted into Profectus – the elite academy for cutting edge tech – it seems her dreams are over. Worst of all, rather than getting to choose one of the advanced bakus, she’s stuck with a rubbish insect one. 

Then, one night, Lacey comes across the remains of an advanced baku. Once it might’ve been in the shape of a cat but it’s now mangled and broken, no sign of electronic life behind its eyes. Days of work later and the baku opens its eyes. Lacey calls him Jinx – and Jinx opens up a world for her that she never even knew existed, including entry to the hallowed halls of Profecus. Slowly but surely, Jinx becomes more than just a baku to Lacey – he becomes her perfect companion. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his code or built into his motherboard. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet. He seems … real.

I’m so excited to see a YA series centred around STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) with a female protagonist. Lacey Chu has set very high goals for herself. In the future, where having a cell phone is the distant memory of grandparents, the game was changed with the ‘baku’, a smart pet that both acts as a companion and functions in the way that a smart phone would. Created by Monica Chan, she revolutionised not only personal technology but the way of life. She created entire cities where people live, are educated and work at her company. There are hospitals, shops, entire communities. Lacey lives in one of these and she’s just applied for a prestigious college where graduates are guaranteed a job with MONCHAN and Lacey wants to be a companioneer, one of the highest levels of employment working on the creation and fixing of the baku.

Lacey has quite a complex background (her father worked for MONCHAN but disappeared when she was a child) and when Lacey is rejected from the elite academy, she has no backup plan. Everything she wanted in life hinged on her getting a place there. Now that she’s not been accepted, instead of getting a level 3 baku (something like a dog or a cat) she’s stuck with a level one (a bug or a butterfly). Baku are social status markers, just like anything else. The higher you rise within the company/society, the more amazing your baku gets to be. And the lower you are on the totem pole, the more basic it is. Lacey was top of her school and she’s been tinkering with building and fixing things her whole life. She has the skills – and when she finds a strange baku, the likes of which she’s never seen before, although it’s badly damaged, she decides to fix it.

This book really mirrors the sorts of anxieties and stresses that teens face and amplifies them in a futuristic setting. Lacey is lucky that her mother has a job that allows them to live within the community but they are not high ranking. This leads to her being looked down on and often bullied by someone much higher up than she is, who is also perhaps not as smart as Lacey but seems to think they should just get everything they want because of who they are. Lacey has struggles with friendships – she has a best friend who has not applied for the same academy as Lacey and the two of them begin to drift apart when their lives diverge. It can be a really hard task to maintain friendships when you all move on to different things and become drawn into different circles. Perhaps most interestingly at all is the baku that Lacey discovers. When she painstakingly fixes it, she discovers that it’s not like other baku – it seems to be capable of independent thinking and movement, which a normal baku should not be. They should be responsive and obedient and although capable of communication with their owner, not independent thought. This leads both Lacey (and the baku, Jinx) to wonder who created it….and why. And how Lacey came to find it.

I did enjoy this a lot – I liked the world created and the idea of cities within cities was really interesting. Living and working closely cuts down on commute so there’s little traffic congestion. I really want to know more about Lacey’s father but it’s just the first book so there wasn’t a lot of information here. Her mother never talks of it and although he seems to be a well known figure (not sure if it’s for his work, the fact that he disappeared or both) there seems to be no way that Lacey so far, can find out what happened. I did feel that the story kind of lost its way around half to two thirds of the way through – it was getting bogged down in the baku battles (which I have to admit, weren’t the most interesting part of the book for me) but then it picked up quite a bit towards the end. The book changes direction and it becomes quite clear that there’s something very odd going on at MONCHAN and Lacey has stumbled right into the middle of it, inadvertently. So I’m definitely keen to read the next book in the series and find out what happens next, because the ending definitely leaves you hanging and wanting more.


Book #158 of 2018

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