Nirvana (Nirvana Series #1) by J.R. Stewart (2015)
-eARC Review-


YA Fiction | Sci-Fi2.5 StarsBlurb:

“When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?

Larissa Kenders lives in a world where the real and the virtual intermingle daily. After the supposed death of her soulmate, Andrew, Larissa is able to find solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world where anything is possible – even visits with Andrew. Although Larissa is told that these meetings are not real, she cannot shake her suspicion that Andrew is indeed alive. When she begins an investigation of Hexagon, the very institution that she has been taught to trust, Larissa uncovers much more than she ever expected and places herself in serious danger. Her biggest challenge, however, remains determining what is real – and what is virtual.

Nirvana is the first instalment in the three-part “Nirvana” series, a fast-paced, page-turning young adult trilogy that combines elements of the romance, mystery, and science fiction genres. This first novel introduces readers to a heroine who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.”

Expected Publication Date: November 10, 2015

pooled ink Review:

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!

There’s a lot going on in this book, which occasionally made things a bit hard to follow but otherwise contributed to its fast-pace. Many elements are brought up only to be vaguely strung together with some left irrelevant and some becoming an important common thread or detail. On the other hand there are some things that simply became repetitive.

Nirvana is written under the YA fiction genre but despite the main character, Kenders, being 17 this book often reads more like an adult fiction. Times are changing I suppose but just in case I’ll give you a heads up that there is some strong language and despite the race against the cock and an evil corporate world to defeat Kenders and Andrew always make time to have a few semi-vague “love-making” scenes written in. It’s totally PG-13 but what bothered me was that half the time I was just like “Really? It’s not the time guys! You’ve got a legion of super rich baddies on your trail and puzzles to solve!”

Moving on, Nirvana sets up an intriguing insight into the pros, cons, and magically endless possibilities of virtual reality. It also dives in to reveal how science goes corporate and the inevitable repercussions of this.

Stewart writes in a slew of environmental, scientific, and animal-rights issues in this book – Most of these you can look up online and read about for yourself because they’re current and not entirely made up. This relevancy adds to the realism of Nirvana while also calling the present day to action. The only downside with all of these issues being tossed in is that it caused the story to have a wider and weaker focus with a side of repetitiveness. Of course all of these issues like global warming, GMO plants, decline in the bee population, animal testing, cameras everywhere watching the population 24/7, corporate science, and even the dangers of virtual reality are important to be aware of and educated about. They all make for interesting contributions to a dystopian or sci-fi story as well.

However, while they’re all realistic and relevant it might have helped the book to focus better if it had chosen just one or two issues to focus on rather than coating the pages with issue after issue. While all of these issues may be present and pressing at the same time it just makes a story stronger to choose a smaller focal point. And yep, that’s basically the only thing I took away from my college English class: a tighter, sharper focal point leads to a stronger and more convincing essay/argument/story. I learned this because it always took me a few drafts to get there. I just tend to have a lot to say and maybe Stewart does too.

Weirdly enough pushing a rebel, environmental, punk rock band to the forefront with Kenders as their lead singer seems both cliché and outdated. Punk is far from dead and they usually protest issues such as those brought up in this book (either that or anarchy but perhaps to some it may be the same thing) but while it makes sense it also seemed dated and a bit difficult to relate to or sympathize with. That’s the conundrum with punkers. While they may advocate saving the world they somehow manage to do it in the most inefficient way ever. There’s a reason why they’re often seen as a nuisance even to those who are trying to save the world. Extremists are hard to relate to or fight for. Kenders’ band isn’t wholly extremist but they have engaged in the type of protests that everyone roles their eyes at even if they support their stance on the issue.

The character development was pretty good though in this book. There were plenty of secrets, evolving or twisting personalities, and shifting relationships. There were plenty of high-paced action scenes, last-minute survivals, conniving plots, and awareness of real issues. On top of this both the physical and mental worlds were written with lots of creativity. Stewart managed to write and create a well crafted fictional world with a decent amount of detail where it counted.

Will Nirvana be the next Divergent? I’m inclined to say no. Is Nirvana an interesting contribution to the YA, sci-fi, and dystopian genres? Yes I think so. Nirvana had all the ingredients for an interesting story but unfortunately left me a bit wanting.

Nirvana is a fast-paced view into the future where seemingly anything is possible and a devastated world awaits its comeuppance. Follow Kenders as she tries to find Andrew, crack open Hexagon, and save the world.

“We need the light to see the darkness, and in the darkness is the truth.”

–Andrew’s “Quadrangle Mantra”


P.S. To clarify the multitude of other reviews of Nirvana, Kenders and Andrew were engaged, not married (hence why they used the word ‘fiancé’ and ‘boyfriend’ not ‘husband’). There’s a difference lol

amazon icon_tiny Purchase here: Nirvana 

Meet J.R. Stewart!

J.R. Stewart has worked on many corporate projects throughout a prolific IT academic and consulting career, and is involved with many confidential virtual reality projects. After working on advanced “VR” technologies for over a decade, Stewart grew concerned about the implications of this work and the possible psychological effects that it may have on its users.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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