Book Review: Altered by Aubrey Coletti

Altered by Aubrey Coletti

Altered is the first in a series about J. Alter Academy. The author asked me to review it and it sounded very interesting, as it seemed to fit into the Speculative Fiction category of the Indie Lit Awards for which I try to read as many books as I can, since I’m one of the judges.

Aubrey Coletti wrote this book between the ages of 15 and 18, but I wouldn’t have known just by reading the book.

Altered: What it is about

J. Alter Academy is a school taking in pupils from the local area as well as boarders. But it seems that the boarders are all there for a reason: they were sent to the school because no other school wants them or because their parents insisted.

The regime at the school is harsh and there is a special treatment room for boarders: behave badly and you’ll be sent to the basement where you’ll receive shock treatment. As if this isn’t bad enough, a new method for controlling the pupils is introduced, and that is one step too far: the pupils make plans to sabotage the school and run away.

Early on, the reader discovers that these special pupils all have supernatural skills, such as making fire without matches, or telekinesis. They use these skills in their attempts to sabotage the school. Are they crazy, delinquent kids, or kids with special powers that should be cared for in a different type of institution?

Altered: What I thought

The dialogue was very realistic, especially the way the school managers talked to the children was spot-on. However, there was too much dialogue for me. I love dialogue in stories, but I need a context too. I would have liked more description (where are we (room, situation), what are we doing here, who else is there) rather than diving straight into yet another conversation in apparently another situation.

Probably because there wasn’t much description, I was confused a few times. E.g., after school, the pupils are on a bus to somewhere but as far as I understood they were boarders. Then much later in the book I understood that they were boarders in other people’s houses rather than on the school premises (I knew they were boarding in small units, but didn’t realise this was not at the school itself). Maybe I just missed a reference somewhere, but in any case, it wasn’t made explicit enough.

I liked it that the story made me think about the (seemingly delinquent) pupils even when I was not reading: was the school right to treat them harshly (although the school definitely took it too far), or were the pupils innocent and capable of living under a less strict regime? I was on the side of the pupils the whole time, but never felt they were justified in their attempt to sabotage the school. Also, I wondered why the day pupils didn’t tell their parents how abominably the boarders were treated.

There was a love story that was really well done. Nothing soppy romantic, these were damaged teenagers and they took their relationship very slowly and with the necessary hurdles. I liked it how these two teenagers came together and how their romance was build out slowly to something more meaningful.

While the book starts out very good, in the end, I got bored. But the actual ending was interesting and opened quite nicely the way to a next book in the series. There was no cliffhanger, though. The book can easily be read stand-alone.

It was a book with some interesting ideas to think about. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I think a reader of YA age would probably enjoy it a lot.

Rating: 3/5

I got this book: from the author for review

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 271

First published: 2011

Genre: YA, fantasy/futuristic

Extras: Another review by this book: The Phantom Paragrapher

I enjoyed this book. If you read it and absolutely loved it, consider nominating this book for the Independent Literary Awards under Speculative Fiction. Any book blogger can nominate titles! (nominations open September – December)



About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

11 Responses to Book Review: Altered by Aubrey Coletti

  1. This one sounds very interesting, and I love books that are set at boarding schools, but there is something that puts me off a little bit. Maybe it is the excessive dialogue . . . I will have to think about whether or not to give this one a shot.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Lola, it’s not actually a boarding school: the boarders are staying elsewhere, but the feel of the story is quite similar to that in boarding schools, I think.

  2. Nadine Nys says:

    I like reading about schools, most of the time, but this sounds a bit confusing. Are these kids delinquents or are they only special because they have paranormal gifts? Was this made clear in the book?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Nadine, since the book is written mainly from the kids’ points of view I wasn’t sure how innocent they were at first. But yet, it seems that they deserved to be at that school. They were from tough backgrounds and didn’t behave well.

  3. Good to hear I am not the only one who thinks there can be too much dialogue. Dialogue is one of the huge buzz-words these years, but if there is nothing else, I would also miss e.g. descriptions and scenes that move things along.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Dorte, I didn’t know that dialogue was so popular recently. I think dialogue can be very difficult to do convincingly, but that wasn’t the problem in this book. A bit more context would have helped me a lot.

  4. Misha says:

    I am amazed at anyone who is capable of writing a book at 15 years of age! Too much or even too little dialogues irks me too. Something about the premise reminds me very strongly of Never Let Me Go, but it doesn’t seem to be as good.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Misha, no, it’s nothing like *Never Let Me Go*. Most books are not as good as that one, actually. I thought that was a really brilliant book.

      *Altered* reminded me a little bit of *Gone* by Michael Grant, where there are also teenagers in a difficult situation using their supernatural skills to survive. But that was a real SF book, whereas this is very close to reality (except for the supernatural bits).

  5. Hi Leeswammes: I hadn’t heard of the Indie Lit awards, will have to check them out, thanks, Ruby

    • Leeswammes says:

      A Year of Reading, you can only nominate books from September to December but it doesn’t harm making a mental list of all the good books from this year so far. 🙂

  6. Lucybird says:

    This sounds interesting, even though I’m not usually interested in YA I might look it out.

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