Book Review -The Ambassador: First Contact

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Author:  Jacob PinkstonThe Ambassador.jpg

I picked up The Ambassador because it claimed to be a Middle-Grade fiction with an unexpected take on character relationships. On top of that, it’s about aliens invading a school, a happy place left over from my teen years.

It had a promising start too, bar a pretty nasty tense-mixing hiccup. Luke, our main character is introduced on a very exciting day for him as a space obsessed middle schooler; the day humans are going to land on Mars. There are a lot of parallels drawn between his today and the moon landing his grandparents told him about, and there are some fun little asides about what seems ancient history to Luke and his friends, but is a modern reality to children today, giving the readers a link to Luke.

However, my praise stops there, since every aspect of the book, from writing style through to the plot seems to meander and lose focus as the book goes on.

The plot is the most noticeable thing to lower in quality, strangely from the moment the aliens arrive on the scene (i.e. the point where excitement should be running highest) the book becomes completely directionless. The aliens mumble something about wanting to talk to people for a bit before they leave. That’s it. This would be fine if the focus would swap to the aliens themselves, maybe tell a little story about them, but short of aesthetic appearances, there’s nothing special about the aliens. It’s sci-fi at its most vanilla.

This is not helped by the writing, which not only picks up more typos the further in you read but is done mostly in the form of expositional chit-chat, wooden chit-chat to boot. As for the promise of unexpected character relationships that got me so interested? It’s an empty promise, everything is about as unexpected as the sun rising in the morning. There’s the pretty girl who hangs out with the mean girls but is nice really. There’s the quiet girl whose fun and animated when you get to know her. There’s the angry gym teacher (a character which I’m starting to think is mandatory in school stories) who no one likes but comes through eventually. This thrillingly original cast talk at each other like they’re auditioning to be the next Bert and Ernie.

As for the promise of unexpected character relationships that got me so interested? It’s an empty promise, everything is about as unexpected as the sun rising in the morning. There’s the pretty girl who hangs out with the mean girls but is nice really. There’s the quiet girl whose fun and animated when you get to know her. There’s the angry gym teacher (a character which I’m starting to think is mandatory in school stories) who no one likes but comes through eventually. This thrillingly original cast talk at each other like they’re auditioning to be the next Bert and Ernie.

Ultimately the biggest problem is the writing seems to have been done with children, not Middle-Grade readers, in mind.Middle-grade readers need an interesting hook, a little bit of challenge and much more meat in their reads. The Ambassador just doesn’t offer any of these things. The author is forever dissecting interactions and telling the reader how to feel but I don’t think readers this age need that, most think about what they read and make their own deductions. If I’d  read this book at a young age I wouldn’t have engaged.

I’m going to bring back a word from earlier since it’s the best word I can think of to describe this book ‘vanilla’.