Monday, December 15, 2014

The Terminals ~ Royce Scott Buckingham review [@MacKidsBooks]

The Terminals
Thomas Dunne Books
October 14, 2014
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

The riveting story of a covert team of young, terminally ill teens who spend their last year alive running dangerous missions as super-spies for an organization that may not be all it seems.

When 19 year-old Cam Cody is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he expects to spend the rest of his shortened life in an adjustable bed. Then one night, a mysterious man offers Cam one chance to join a covert unit of young “terminals.” They are like him, only they spend the last year of their lives executing exciting and dangerous missions to make the world a better place.

With nothing to lose, Cam is in.

A helicopter flies Cam to a secret tropical location, where he’s tossed out with a parachute and an instruction manual. After a rough landing, he meets his nine teammates. The other terminals don’t seem sick; Zara is beautiful, Donnie is an amazing athlete, and Calliope sings like a bird. He soon learns that they’re enhanced with an experimental super steroid TS-8, which suppresses their illnesses’ symptoms and heightens their physical and mental abilities. It’s also fatal if taken for more than a year.

Cam joins this extreme spy team, and they begin pulling dangerous operations in multiple countries.[...]

(I left off the very end of the summary because I think it's spoilery, but you can easily find the full one on Goodreads, Amazon, etc.)

When Cam Cody is unexpectedly diagnosed with a terminal illness, he expects that any fun and adventure is over for him. Until a stranger appears in his hospital room offering him the chance for one last year of greatness. Cam will be a member of an elite (but highly secretive) group of teens, also with a bleak prognosis, going on missions, doing good.

Cam cannot pass up the opportunity to spend his last year, not in a hospital bed wasting away, but being something akin to a superhero. Leaving his life and family behind, he's soon on his way ot the group's top secret location.

Despite being told the rest of the group was sick like him, no one - Cam, included - seems ill. In fact, the others have all been enhanced with TS-8, a sort of steroid, 'which suppresses their illnesses’ symptoms and heightens their physical and mental abilities.' And fatal after one year.

The missions are just what Cam hoped they would be. With specialized training, the use of yachts, highly dangerous and done to save the good guys. It's all things Cam never thought he would be doing, things he can't believe he's doing . . . but things he enjoys.

Though the mssions' danger soon leads to members of Cam's team dying.

Soon Cam has more questions than anyone's willing to truly answer. Including about the illness that got him selected to begin with.

While the 'join a clandestine group on other terminally ill teens in saving the world' idea is kind of goofy, the introduction of Cam to the group, of his arrival there, was nicely done. From it's secret location, to how Cam must arrive, even how the other teens welcome him, it sets the groundwork for a thrilling, adrenaline filled tale.

The training and planning put into their missions, makes it seem like they are something a group of teens - on TS-8, at least - could accomplish.

Where The Terminals really hinders itself is with the portrayal and treatment of its female characters. Despite being a part of this 'team' they are looked at in terms of their attractiveness, their sexuality, if the male characters want to hookup with them or not. Whether it's two of the male characters discussing the female characters and deciding one is 'normal,' 'the kind of girl a guy could marry' (she's sweeter, likes to cook - even if Cam wants to point out she's not attractive) while another (who's less inhibited, more attractive) has likely 'already had a roll in the sane with just about every [guy here].' (pg 79)

Besides the, at best, sexist view of the characters, the female characters also seemed to be killed off more quickly and with less impact on the story than the others. In fact, towards the end when a character lists those who've died, one of the female characters is omitted, likely forgotten (by the character if not the author).

I haven't read Buckingham's MG novels so I don't know how he treats the girls there, but in this book, his first YA, it felt almost like the sexuality was stuck in to move it from MG to YA.  (Not that viewing women or girls as this book does fits for any age range.)

While the adventure of The Terminals will appeal to older MG and YA readers, boys and girls, I would have to be sure whomever I was recommending it to would see fault with the gender depictions.

The Terminals has a unique, exciting premise, but it's depiction of the female characters (and how the male characters see them, think of them) keeps it from being a really good read.

thank you to the publisher for my copy of the book to review 


  1. Interesting and your comments charging the book as sexist are clearly the same if not word for word of another review previously published about the book. I know. I read the other review. So in response 1) I think if most people took a hard look at many YA books with female protagonists, they will find the female characters talking incessantly about how hot the boys are. Somehow that is not sexist or being extremely focused on appearance? And somehow, no one's being called out on it. 2) I would recommend you take a look at Buckingham's MG books. They are fun, urban fantasy, adventure books, often cited as great reads for reluctant readers and especially great for boys -- and I keep hearing there aren't enough books for boys. His work also includes very subtle but poignant messages that more careful readers recognize. And Buckingham's book, The Dead Boys, won the 2014 Sasquatch Award for best children's book in Washington State and made it on several book lists across the country. I normally do not respond to reviews, and wouldn't have even done so had you only expressed your opinion about The Terminals. However, I do not think it fair to start publicly wondering about material that one has not read, especially in light of your response to the book featured here.

    1. The review and my thoughts on The Terminals are my own.

      I do not think I maligned any of author's other titles. (I do think it fair to 'wonder'about them as I no judgement was made.)


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