Gemja: The Message

K. M. Messina

Publisher: Lunalore Books Pages: 321 Price: (paperback) ISBN: 9780578839561 Reviewed: July, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

Mixing science fiction and fantasy, this first book in K.M. Messina’s young adult series introduces Resa, a quirky teen whose family becomes involved in an inter-planetary quest.

Resa Stone copes better than her twin brother, Dakota, when their father is the first human to make contact with aliens visiting Earth and is then chosen to travel with his family to the planet Wandelsta. It’s a strange and sometimes dangerous place that acts as an intergalactic garbage dump, and it’s home for the Stone family for the next six months. While Dakota grumbles, Resa draws the planet’s dunes, dumps, and incinerator complexes, hoping to land a book deal for her visual journal when the family returns home.

Resa, an aspiring witch, is also having visions of a ghostly girl who appears and tells her “You are the one.” When a new arrival on Wandelsta, a handsome boy with lavender-colored eyes, seems to be in danger in the toxic field, Resa risks her safety to save him. In doing so, she finds a glowing orange crystal. This leads Resa to uncover family secrets and join the search for similar powerful crystals hidden on multiple planets.

Messina blends witchcraft, prophesies, aliens and interplanetary tensions into a highly enjoyable young adult drama. Her world-building is well-balanced with plenty of action and humorous dialogue, particularly between Resa and her brother. Lovely ink drawings add to the appeal.

There’s a lot happening here: strange planets such as Glucosa, where the ground is so soft it feels like “walking on gumdrops”; a creation legend with crystals hidden in over 20 different planets; an academy for crystal hunters; an attempt to help Resa’s grandmother using astral projection; a war and interplanetary terrorism; even a touch of teen romance. Messina deftly juggles all these elements, creating a wonderfully escapist read.

With some storylines resolved but the quest for many more crystals only just beginning, Gemja is set to be a captivating and popular series.