Sci-fi Book Review: Replacement by Jordan Rivet

My judging team in the third annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC3) has turned in our two semifinalists, and in return, we’ve received two semifinalists each from a pair of other teams. Our task over the months of February and March is to read these four new semifinalists, and together with the other two teams, select two finalists from our set of six.  Next on my list was the shortest of the bunch, the compact YA thriller Replacement by Jordan Rivet. 

Replacement stars Jane, raised in a community of clones training for the future employment desired by their corporate sponsors. Only Jane has never met anyone else from her line, and all information about her sponsor is corrupted and inaccessible. So when she’s offered a chance to get into the wider world—and collect a generous paycheck at the same time—all for the cost of impersonating a talented teenager who had been adopted into a non-clone family, and whose history may finally give Jane some insight into her own, it looks like her one chance to find the answers she’s been craving. 

I confess I have a real weakness for suppressed histories, so the animating mystery sucked me into this story immediately. And Replacement takes up this mysterious history and gallops ahead, sending Jane diving into an exploration not just of her own origins, but the death of her clone and how it’s all tied in with one of the most powerful business tycoons in the city. It’s a short book—less than 4,000 locations on my Kindle—and for readers looking to binge a YA thriller in a single sitting, Replacement is a truly outstanding choice. The style makes for easy reading, and there’s always another bread crumb to follow, another small question that keeps the pages melting away like snow. I had said that the opening of Kenai was the most bingeable thing I’d read so far in this competition, but Replacement has raced past it with ease. And while it does answer many of the major questions, there is a sequel hook that allows plenty of room for future installments–two of which have already been published–for readers interested in bingeing an entire series. 

But the breakneck pacing is a double-sided coin. The story sees Jane trying to integrate into an elite private school setting, befriend the earnest son of the wealthy man seemingly at the center of the mystery, and falling in with a shady investigator interested in digging up whatever dirt he can. And these elements are all sketched thoroughly enough to serve as the needed scaffolding for the investigation at the heart of the story. But they don’t have sufficient breathing room to generate real emotional impact. The complicated marriage of true friendship and foundational deceit provides fodder for what should be a rich and complex interpersonal plot, but the narrative seems rather just to touch on the key points before cutting back to the investigation. Does it make for an easily bingeable book? Absolutely. But it gives short shrift to a subplot that could’ve added true dimensionality to what is otherwise a fun-but-forgettable thriller plot. 

Ultimately, Replacement is an easy and entertaining read, with a fast-paced thriller plot perfect for fans of young adult sci-fi looking for something light and bingeable, and with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader coming back for more. But there are times that the lightning speed of the investigation plot doesn’t leave room for the emotional elements to breathe, robbing it of some of the interpersonal depth that might’ve made it a more well-rounded and memorable book. 

Recommended if you like: fast-paced YA sci-fi thrillers. 

Can I use it for Bingo? It’s hard mode for Young Adult, and it is also Self-Published and Features Robots

Overall rating: 14 of Tar Vol’s 20. Four stars on Goodreads.

SPSFC score: 7/10 for my personal score. The official team score will be decided in concert with my teammates. 

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