Book review: Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe, by D. L. Reynolds
The story begins in a cemetery when 13-year old Darla Jade's soul is 'raised from her grave' by Striker, the creature that calls the souls at the resurrection before they're to go to either Heaven or Hell. Darla is sent to Heaven while another boy, Johnny, is sent to into the vortex of Hell. Once in Heaven, Darla must attend school for training as a Guardian Angel--or Guardian, for short. There, she makes friends but also has a tough time controlling her temper and rudeness. She keeps getting demerits for bad behavior. However, Darla is brave and good at heart and this is what matters, especially because, as the story develops, it becomes clear that she is 'The One,' the Guardian who will save the world from Evil. In the Heaven academy, Darla learns a lot from famous teachers such as Leonardo DaVinci, Tesla and Benjamin Franklin.
Meantime, down in Hell, Johnny and other demons are planning to tip the Balance of the Universe in the forms of a evil storm on earth. For this to succeed, Darla must be destroyed, for she is the only one who can stop it and bring the Balance back.
I have a lot of good things to say about this YA fantasy: the pace is quick, with lots of dialogue and action scenes; the worlds of Heaven and Hell are rich, intriguing and imaginative. Author D. L. Reynolds certainly has a flair for world building. What I especially like about it is that the world building doesn't come in information dumps that slow down the pace, but instead it's incorporated into the scenes with the action and dialogue. One aspect that got my attention, though--and this is only an observation--is that the first several chapters of the story read more like middle grade (for ages 8-12), and it is only after some time that the plot acquires more 'heavy' elements which are more suitable for the YA audience (13 and up). Overall, I'd say this is a novel for the tween and YA audiences and not for middle graders.
Darla Jade and the Balance of the Universe was a surprisingly interesting and pleasant read and I look forward to the 2nd book in the series.
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