In a futuristic, dystopian world, humans live in domed cities of advanced technology alongside Humanoids and Androids. It is a ‘perfect’ world where everything is controlled and regulated from the weather to simulated classroom environments. Protagonist, Elena Ransom, soon has to leave her parents and perfect life behind, along with her friends, to attend boarding school at Grimsby School of the Republic, due to government rules.
Uneasy at first, Elena slowly gets accustomed to life at Grimsby. However, as the term continues, Elena finds out that fitting in, dealing with teen angst, and making new friends with her Firebird Unit, is the least of her worries. Bit by bit, Elena and her friends find clues at Grimsby that hold the key to unlocking the mystery to her parent’s past and discover that their Firebird Unit is connected in ways they’d never imagined.
Interview with author J.S. Wood
1) How did the idea for the Elena Ransom series first come about?
The first idea I had for Elena Ransom was in 2004. I was on a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and I thought, "I wonder what this bay would look like without any water in it." I didn't know it at the time, but that one thought would eventually become the end of my first book.
Years later, I started going through old notes and writings from middle and high school and began to formulate a story based on what my life might be like 300 years in the future.
Almost all of the characters in the Elena Ransom series are based on people that I've known or still know in my life. And even some of the conversations between the characters are versions of conversations I've had, or part of a note that was written with a friend in middle or high school.
2) If you had a choice, which Unit would you choose to be a part of at Grimsby? Why?
I actually wrote the Firebird Unit specifically for myself because those are my people, so that's the Unit I would choose to be in. Those characters are based on my real friends/family, even Hopper with his curly rainbow colored hair. Plus, the Firebirds are part of the Aves Company.
We don't get to see it until Books 3 through 6, but the Aves are specifically gifted at flying and aerial battle. I feel that birds are a triple threat because they can fly, swim, and travel on land. For Elena, being a triple threat is going to be important.
About the book
Elena Ransom and the Firebird Unit is a great introductory book for young readers looking for a start in the adventure/fantasy/sci-fi genre. With a mixture of Suzanne Collins’s plot twists and Jeanne Duprau’s sense of adventure, J.S. Wood throws readers right into the future and creates very strong characters with a fluid narration that keeps the pages turning. I truly enjoyed the avid descriptions of Elena’s futuristic world and seeing the character development between Elena and her friends as they learn to work as a team and focus on their strengths together.
To future readers of the series, I say: “Welcome to Grimsby Academy!”
As a reader myself, I look forward to seeing where the story goes!
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