Book Review: Ninety-Five Percent Human by Suzanna Williams
Ninety-Five Percent Human is a young adult, science fiction novel, the first in a two-book series. It tells the story of sixteen year old Joe Kendrick who rescues a girl from drowning only to discover that she is a human/alien hybrid sent to Earth as a test. Now that she has survived on the planet, hostile aliens are planning to invade.
This novel very quickly grounds the reader in the reality of Joe's world - the Welsh landscape, his family farm, the local people - and draws us into his feelings about that world. There is a gentle humour to the book, the kind of banter you get between people that have known each other for a long time.
The book is written in present tense from Joe's point of view which allows the reader to react and learn along with the character. I liked Joe from the outset. He's hard working (unlike his medical student brother), responsible (he stays on at the family farm even though he doesn't want to) and willing to sacrifice himself for not only those he cares about but also the occasional stranger. He's an all round good guy who doesn't realise his own self worth at the beginning of the novel. The interactions between Joe and the other teenagers and young people took me back to when I was that age (which is a feat in itself seeing as I haven't been a teenager for quite a few decades). By the end of the novel, he's grown in courage and self assurance.
Experiencing the story unfold through Joe's eyes and using the present tense kept the story exciting for me. I wanted to finish the chapter (and then the next) before I turned out the light at night. The plot was on occasion a little predictable but the likeability of Joe and the quality of writing made me want to read on regardless.
I have two favourite scenes from the novel that are very different to each other. The first is the party that Joe and Sarah attend. It's probably one of the first times that Sarah has really relaxed and just been a 'normal' teenager. I was also reminded of parties I went to at that age which again is credit to the writer's grounding of the story in reality.
My second favourite scene is the UFO sighting at the local pub. I love the characters' reactions, cementing the personalities that have already been built up in previous chapters, but also it's good to see Joe and Sarah's plan come together, for once.
This is one of the first young adult novels that I've read - when I was a 'young adult', we didn't have this rating; it was children's novels or adults' novels - so I was unsure what I would find. Ninety-Five Percent Human is a well written, insightful novel that mixes up the reality of our world (and Joe's) with the concept of alien life forms and advanced technology into a believable and enjoyable read.
You can find Suzanna's website here.