Star Trek: The Next Generation – Metamorphosis by Jean Lorrah (March 1990)


Back in the 90s, I was full of TNG awe. It’s the first “grown up” TV show I latched onto (my parents watched it by themselves for years because it came on after my bedtime — so I heard the Red Alert noise, the theme music, and other sounds before I ever watched the show).

Also in the 90s, I got into reading with more of my own agency. Sure, I was still in school, and to this day I get cringey when I hear the words “required reading”, but I learned that not all books were mind-numbingly boring, and I looked forward to going to the bookstore for more than just the little toy section.

The Nancy Drew Files were an easy pick for me at the time — they were actually written in the 80s and 90s, as opposed to the “original” series, which was favorable to my boring parents. (Tom Swift IV was another rebooted Stratemeyer Syndicate-adjacent series about a young inventor who did time travel and other cool stuff. I picked that one because they looked enough like Nancy Drew files to pique my interest, and the guy on the cover was handsome. Couldn’t read the Hardy Boys Casefiles, though, because they were for boys. Face-palm emoji.) I liked Sunfire romances (even though I argued profusely they weren’t romances, because for some reason there was a mortal stigma attached to that genre) because their cover artwork was beautiful, and they showcased different eras in such an interesting way. Sure, there was a love triangle, but the stories, man.

Around the same time I started watching TNG (not just listening to it from down the hall), my sister and I discovered a young adult book series about the same characters: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Starfleet Academy. Like it says on the tin.

At the time, there were only two or three books in the series, and we burned through them pretty quickly. Lucky for us, the same authors also wrote for the Star Trek books in the adult section, so on our regular trips to the used bookstore, we picked a few of those up. One of them was Metamorphosis by Jean Lorrah.

You could tell from the cover who the dominant character would be. Usually two or three characters would be on the cover, and the one in the center was the one to look out for. This one promoted Data, who was (for I don’t know what reason) my favorite character on the show (although to this day, I’m a sucker for a humanoid robot character — finishing up the third season of Westworld now). This was a big fat novel, too. The only thing I needed to know was that Data became human in the book, and I was like, “hell yes.”

I loved this book so much when I was a teenager I still remembered some of the plot points into adulthood (enough that I wanted to read it again just now).

I almost didn’t want to read it again because sometimes stuff from back then doesn’t hold up, and I liked having a good memory. But after a few pages, I was suddenly halfway through the book.


Because Star Trek plots can be convoluted (and this one was no exception), in a nutshell, the ship flew through the neighborhood of a planet and experienced power surges, but why? They sent a crew to the planet’s surface to investigate, and long story short, Data is left alone and he accidentally gets involved in a quest to see the planet’s gods. Data thinks, “oh good, I’ll ask the gods about the power surges so we can get this under control.” At the end of the quest, the gods might give you your dearest wish (the answer to that question, for example). You might also fail and get nothing.

He doesn’t undertake this quest alone, however. A young woman shows up for her own quest, who she knows will be with a stranger from far away — oh look, it’s Data, from far away. Let’s go.

Their quest is perilous, but they get through it. Data wants to ask his work-friendly question, but you know Data really wants to be human. And those seeds of want have been planted throughout the beginning of the novel. Because that’s his dearest wish, that’s what the gods give him.

With the quest over and able to contact the ship again, Data has to adjust to being human now, and not having all the world’s knowledge programmed into his head, and not having super strength, and having to do things like sleep and eat (and take a poop). (Also, women are super distracting.)

But being human how, he’s got to re-qualify for all his Starfleet positions, and can’t go on away missions because there’s no telling if he can hack it or not. So he does training of the mental and combat kind, and does really well — so well that you think he’s going to be a dick as a human. But he gets his ass handed to him in enough ways (mostly in smartness areas) (and also women are making him super depressed) that you keep rooting for him.

Finally, he’s so bummed (and getting fat, and his blood pressure’s going up) that he goes to talk to the counselor and discovers he’s in love with the woman he went on the quest with. So of course, they turn the ship around so he can go back to the planet and find her, and he’s stoked about that. But once he gets there, not only is she Queen of her country, she’s getting married to some dude from another country so their regions can finally unite and stop fighting, and it’s an annoyingly noble thing. She’s happy, the countries are happy, and Data can’t justify breaking all that up so he can get the girl. 

More bummed than ever, so the gods take Data back to their temple and give him a talking to. Yes, when she kissed him on the cheek at the end of their quest, they accidentally bonded for life (but he had been a robot at the time, so she didn’t think that would happen). No, the gods can’t take that bonding away. No, she can’t not marry the dude from the other country. Yes, Data has to be a sad sack forever because he’ll be pining for her until he dies. I mean, unless he becomes an android again. Exchange your gift for another one, maybe? Holy Status Quo, that’s perfect! So Data gives up his humanity in exchange for knowledge of how the gods work on that world and knowledge of the future, which involves an intergalactic war because of his initial turning into a human and being kind of incompetent.

But hey, the catch is that once he’s turned back into an android, he loses ALL that memory and information, as if nothing happened at all. He’s returned to the moment right before he went on the quest in the first place. The guy the woman was supposed to go questing with was the dude she eventually married, so Data stays back and lets that happen (mind you, not remembering anything that happened), and goes back to the ship.

And so after the actual climax of the A story, we still have about 15% of the book left to wrap up, and it’s all the B story you didn’t really care about. And because Data has essentially gone back in time, but as an android this time, there are identical scenes from before. Only this time, Data has all this robot computing power, and he solves the problem with flying colors, avoiding war, and setting the ship ready for the next syndicate-appropriate episode.

A couple of things:

While I remembered very vague plot points from when I read this as a teen, I didn’t remember the “oh nevermind” ending.

What I liked:

  • Good Lord, Data and his crush’s interactions at the beginning of the book were so sweet. Both of them totally came apart by the time their quests were over, and they took care of each other.
  • There’s a tip in writing that encourages you to describe only the things that are different for the character. For instance, if you (your character) walk into your own house, you’re not going to fixate on stuff that’s been the same forever. You’ll notice something out of the ordinary, so you describe that, and in so doing, also describe the ordinary things for the reader in a good way. Because Data is new to being human, the author was able to describe things like being tired, or how fruit juice tastes in an interesting way. Excellent example of how to use descriptions.
  • Even though Data was poised to be an absolute asshole because enough of his android skillz copied over to his human form, he has enough humbling experiences to keep that full transformation from happening. That’s good because I love this character and I don’t want him to be a shithead.

What I didn’t like:

  • This book was written in 1990, which I guess was before the full cutoff for plots involving the whole “it was all a dream” resolution. Maybe it was a product of its time, but the gods revealing that Data’s entire human experience took place on top of the mountain and not in reality … I was done with the book at that point. An absolute deflation of the good reading experience I’d had up until that point.
  • The “how do we stop this planet’s civil war” plot repetition. Oh my god. For me, it was the most boring part of the book, and she repeated it almost verbatim twice.
  • Granted, this novel belongs to a universe where each episode has to wrap up in such a tidy way that the watcher/reader can pick up any syndicated episode and know exactly what’s going on. That leaves so little room for character development and plot progression it’s almost maddening. Now that we’re doing TV shows like novels instead of episodes, it’s hard to go back to a time when everything resets every 40 minutes. If this novel had been a stand-alone piece with its own original characters (but the same otherwise), it would have probably been one of my favorite books. But the return to status quo zapped its magic.
  • Star Trek definitely has a particular … way of talking. Did Shatner start this? Because it’s … annoying.
  • Also, the cat. I love cats so much — I’ve had one almost my entire life. So when at the beginning of the novel the characters are petting the cat and she’s purring for everyone except Data (because he’s a machine, and “cats don’t purr for machines”), I was calling bullshit through the whole scene. Look, a cat gets on a purring streak because you’re rubbing her, and she does not stop purring when she takes a break from your hand and rubs against the edge of your phone/laptop/remote control because it’s a machine and not a human. She just keeps purring until she’s done with the whole session and goes back to licking her own butt.

Overall, I liked the book better than I thought I would. I have to be fair about the parts that didn’t gel with me, but damn, that ending was unsatisfying. If the whole telepathy planet/civil war part wasn’t involved and the story ended with Data returning to his android form and going back to his ship to continue with his life (and allowed to keep the memories he’d formed, to learn from them, to get a little character development), it would have been perfect.

It’s hard to say if I recommend this book or not. If you’re a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you might enjoy this one. If you’re not into the show, the ending is going to piss you off. With my writer’s brain, I like thinking about how the book “should” have been more than the actual book.

The Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon


Very briefly, this is a love story about a girl who’s about to be deported that evening, and a boy who’s trying not to let his strict family control his life.

I didn’t know what this book was about before I started reading it, but the pandemic and all … The cover was beautiful and my library had a digital copy.

Of course, immigration woes are a big hit with me, since I’ve seen first-hand what a lot of it looks like. Also, my family was fairly controlling (which in retrospect could have been the cause of the immigration stuff). It was easy for me to identify with the characters.

You know what I’m loving A LOT lately? Books are diversifying their characters so much more than they used to. I remember reading years ago and all the characters were white. Maybe a Black person here and there, but that was it.

THIS BOOK features its two main characters as a Black girl from Jamaica, and a Korean-American boy. White people: don’t be intimidated by shifts like this. You can still see yourself in the characters, because as human beings we all share similar experiences and feelings, AND you’ll learn something new about someone else’s reality.

Daniel and Natasha’s love story flares up quickly, and it’s so sweet. Though it might be unrealistic, it’s a fun read with many ups and downs. The author’s use of POV shifts is uniquely done and easy to follow. I’m looking forward to a second read of this one, and to check out the author’s other book. 

Mini Reviews of Books I Didn’t Love

I usually won’t finish reading a book I’m not into because let’s face it: there are more books available than I’ll ever be able to read in my lifetime. It’s not worth plodding through something unenjoyable. Yes, sometimes a book can make a surprising turnaround halfway through, or the ending redeems the whole thing, and how are you going to know unless you finish? If I think something like that is likely to happen, I’ll push through to the end. Sometimes they don’t deliver, and those books get 2 stars. They had potential, but ultimately disappointed.

Not everything is everyone’s cup of tea. Here are some 2 star books I didn’t love.

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Mini Reviews of Books I Didn’t Like

It’s the one-star edition, folks. I didn’t just not love these books, I disliked them. Many apologies to the authors.

I once had a co-worker berate me because I started reading 50 Shades of Gray, and abandoned it when I found it poorly written and uncomfortable. “How do you know you don’t like it if you won’t even finish??” she kept screaming. Not just the first book, either. Read all three of them. Only then can I hand out criticism.

Sometimes you just know. A few chapters in, and nothing’s happened? Maybe let’s call it a day. Is the protagonist doing something “problematic” and you can’t get on board with rooting for this person? Move on.

For me, a 1 star book is one that had enough pull for me to finish a forth to half of it (the ones where I can’t get past the first few pages, I won’t review at all because something’s so fundamentally not for me, my opinion on it doesn’t matter).

Here are my 1 stars.

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Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix


What sold me first on this book is its design. It’s made to look like an IKEA catalog (in fact, when my husband saw this book come in the mail, he said he almost threw it in the garbage because he thought it was a catalog). I purposefully bought the paperback because of the design. Inside are illustrations of fictional pieces of furniture, company mottos, even an order form. A+

The order form is the copyright page
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My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix


It’s the 80s, and there’s so much of it. Abby invites everyone in school to her birthday party at the roller rink, and only one person, Gretchen, shows up. Gretchen gives a disappointing present, but the two girls become best friends. We follow them through the grades, the boys, the catty friends, until a small group of them try some drugs, try to go skinny dipping, and Gretchen gets lost in the woods. She comes back with maybe some PTSD, and she gets worse before she gets better. Stops bathing. Stops changing her clothes. Stops being normal. Everyone’s worried, but the more 

Abby tries to get to the bottom of what happened and how she can help her friend, everyone turns on her instead. Why is Abby spreading lies, they ask? Why is Abby being such a bad influence? Abby is surely the reason behind Gretchen’s downward spiral, and we don’t want our daughter associating with her anymore. If it’s not Abby . . .

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More than This – Patrick Ness


Seth drowns and wakes up alone in an abandoned city, or the weirdest afterlife I’ve ever imagined.

Coming from a religious background myself, the idea of an afterlife is a) ever-present and b) a total mystery (and well-worth imagining). While it seems like Seth might be in Hell, it’s not explicit. For the first 40% of the book, he’s alone (except for the occasional animal, which may or may not be in his imagination), and I’ve never been so engrossed in a book in recent memory. 

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Cecile and Marie Grace – Denise Lewis Patrick and Sarah Masters Buckley


Cecile and Marie-Grace are ten year old girls in New Orleans, 1853 — the year of the big yellow fever outbreak. The girls pull together to help where they can and build a friendship at the same time.

The story itself is fine. I don’t have any beef with the characters (except that they’re almost never together). Switching their perspectives from book to book shows the reader what life was like for a white girl and a free person of color. I didn’t honestly see much of a difference, except for some pretty hard segregation. I’m sure there was more to it than that, and it would have been interesting to learn about. It was interesting to see how primitive their knowledge of medicine and disease were in 1853. If this were just a book for middle-grade kids to read to make history fun, I’d move on and probably never thing about this series again.

But it’s by American Girl.

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