I do not read many fantasy novels, but when I heard about LAUNCH by Jason C. Joyner (Little Lamb Books, 2020), it appealed to me.

LAUNCH follows the story of four teenagers, Sarah Jane, Lily, Demarcus, and Harry, as they experience the Launch Conference hosted by billionaire Simon Mazor and begin to discover their supernatural abilities. Each has his own unique ability that both sides of good and evil desire, but the lines between good and evil blur together as the teenagers try to discover the truth about why they were chosen for the Launch Conference. Demarcus and Harry make friends with John, an elderly janitor. John tells them that their abilities are gifts from God and warns them that someone desires their abilities for evil. Is John telling the truth, and can the teenagers trust him? And is Simon good or evil?

The beginning of this novel is intriguing, especially the cliffhangers at the end of both the first and second chapters. They reeled me in, and I wanted to keep reading. The plot pace is perfect for the story because it keeps readers interested by slowly increasing as the story progresses.

Even so, what I love most about this novel is the characters and how relatable they are. I identified with each character and his unique backstory. I loved Lily’s sense of humor, understood her feelings of confusion, and sympathized with her longing to fit in. Although I identified with Lily the most, the other characters were also beautifully crafted. The “Character Key” listing the characters and a brief description of them at the beginning of the novel helped me keep track of the characters. I enjoyed seeing the characters and their supernatural abilities mature, but the novel also leaves room for more development. I think the relatable characters are the strongest element of this novel.

I also enjoyed Launch’s unique style. The novel is divided into three parts and goes back and forth between characters but is still very easy to follow. The story is not told from a first-person perspective but from an omniscient, third-person point of view, which enabled me to learn a lot more about each character. The amount of detail is a perfect balance–not too much yet just enough–and the use of suspense is very effective. The ending is complete yet leaves readers longing for more.

While it is a fantasy novel, Launch addresses real issues, mainly bullying, effectively and with a Christian perspective. Even though Launch takes place in a contemporary setting, I do not think the storyline is very realistic, but I don’t read many fantasy novels. The characters’ supernatural abilities aren’t plausible in the real world, yet the relatable characters and realistic setting enabled me to suspend my disbelief.

I recommend Launch to young adults and teenagers sixteen and older. It suits this age bracket because the characters are all around sixteen, and there are some references to high school drama and relationships that might be inappropriate for younger ages. LAUNCH would make a great Christmas gift for a teen or young adult especially one who is struggling with finding his identity or with bullying. If you enjoy this novel, I also recommend Chris Colfer’s A Tale of Magic. I read A Tale of Magic about a year ago and saw a lot of similarities as I was reading Launch. Additionally, if you enjoy Launch, do not forget to watch for the sequel, Fractures, coming out soon!

 

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including three cats (and counting!), a dog, two fish, and many house plants. She attends Presbyterian College and is studying Math and Creative Writing.

 

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