Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza – Review

Mila 2.0

Book Jacket:

Mila was living with her mother in a small Minnesota town when she discovered she was also living a lie.

She was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was never supposed to remember the past – that she was built in a computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run – from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much, and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology.

Evading her enemies won’t help Mila escape the cruel reality of what she is and cope with everything she has had to leave behind. However, what she’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and that just might save her life.

A compulsively readable sci-fi thriller, Mila 2.0 is Debra Driza’s bold debut and the first book in an action-filled, Bourne Identity-style trilogy.

You can read an excerpt here.


I give you fair warning – this is not going to be a kind review.

Here’s the short version: this book lacks integrity in terms of concept, plot and emotional content. Basically the story employs a lot of hand-waving and hopes you won’t notice the emotional flatline or hamster-wheel plot. To be totally, brutally honest, the thought that kept crossing my mind, over and over, as I was reading it was: this is stupid.

Yeah. As I said, brutally honest.

I also should probably warn you that my indignation with this book has so overpowered my discretion that there are fairly massive spoilers below. Sorry about that, but I had to get it all off my chest.

So where to begin? First off, there are huge, glaring logic problems with the concept behind this story – as anyone who has any basic, general knowledge about androids or artificial intelligence (as in, anyone who occasionally watches Star Trek or reads io9) will know. So as the story goes, Mila, who was developed to be a weapon, turned out too human, too emotional, and thus too hard to control, and so needs to be destroyed. Of course, the little problem with that is that the whole point, the whole freaking point, behind android/artificial intelligence R&D is to make a robot that ACTS AND THINKS HUMAN. That’s the holy grail, so to speak – and in terms of weapons, that IS the ultimate weapon, a robot who can make people care, who can manipulate them emotionally, who can get close to their target. So tell me, why would the Bad Guys want to “kill” Mila? Wouldn’t they want to test the crap out of her to see what went “wrong” – stick her on a hard drive, run simulations? And “hard to control” – am I supposed to believe that a company that spent however many billions of dollars developing a robot this sophisticated wouldn’t have a way to CONTROL it, especially once they had her in custody? No kill-switch, no fail-safe, no command subroutines, no button to push that freezes Mila’s body? Really? Even Data had one of those, and he wasn’t nearly as advanced! All in all, it just felt like no thought went into the larger premise of this story, because the minute you start to think about any of it, it all falls apart. This story is a sham.

But logic-free premise aside, worse was the fact that Mila didn’t track for me emotionally. I came to this book primed for a story of self-discovery, an identity crises/coming of age story as a teen robot comes to terms with what she is – I mean, I didn’t need crazy deep and meaningful, but I was looking for something, self-discovery-wise – and instead all I found was a clumsy bout of insta-love, and a whole lot of one-note freak-outs. Basically it goes like this: Mila discovers a new android gimmick, thinks “I can’t, it’s too hard!” Then closes her eyes and sags to the floor, all the while wishing desperately to hear insta-love’s voice (which would magically make it all better, of course). Yep, that’s right folks – Mila’s entire sense of self boils down to A Boy – because that’s so original in YA. And then – even better – while Mila is trapped like a rat by the Bad Guys, lo and behold she meets Boy #2 – and of course immediately dwells on how beautiful his eyes are. Really. Because that’s what we’d all do when faced with imminent death, not to mention the death of our mother – moon over a new boy (sorry, insta-love). And therein lies another of my huge problems with this book – emotionally speaking, this story is all surface level reactions, and they never seem to fully connect with what’s going on. It all felt terrible disjointed – and aside from a few grace notes between Mila and her Mom, Mila had no emotional arc whatsoever. There’s just nothing there.

And as for the plot, well, see, that’s the problem with having no solid overarching premise – there’s no framework for the action. So while this story has run, jump and android gadgetry a-plenty, as George Lucas once said, a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing – and here the action sequences are, frankly, pointless. They don’t move the story forward or catalyze meaningful character development – it’s all razzle-dazzle with no main event. And the lab test sequences were so ridiculous, so artificial, so staged, as to be totally unbelievable – for me, anyway. And worst of all – WORST of all – was how passive Mila was towards the back end of this story. She doesn’t even try to fight back or figure out a way to escape – she just stupidly plays along with the sadistic lab-rat game (which is pointless, because we all know the cartoony Bad Guy is way too EVIL to let her win), and so Mila does nothing proactive, takes no responsibility for saving herself or her Mom – and never once even tries to figure out some bad-ass Andriod-y thing to do to save the day. All she does is freak-and-sag again and again, helpless and despairing as she waits around to be rescued – because no matter how strong a girl is, in the end she’ll still need a boy to save her. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) Shoot me now.

So to sum up: this book has a fatally flawed main concept, a passive main character who does nothing to help herself, and action sequences that are of zero importance to the story. In the end, it’s all smoke and mirrors – hence my ire.

So if you want a cool android/identity crises story, go watch the Ghost in the Shell animated movie instead, and if you want a YA thriller with fun run and jump, go read Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon. End of story.

Byrt Grade: C-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Cuddlebuggery says:

I had a very difficult time rating this book. One one hand, I did relatively enjoy it. But on the other hand, it had a few issues that stuck out like an angry throne for the entire duration of the novel. So what does that exactly equate to? A big ol’ pot of “meh” for the most part, but not to the extent that I wouldn’t recommend the book.

Book Twirps says:

This was a good, action-packed read, but none of the characters really stood out to me aside from Mila…Kelsey and the mean girls at the school were the typical, bitchy queen-bee’s, Mila’s “mom” was caring yet distant and I thought Hunter was rather boring. Even Holland, the man who created Mila and is now out to capture her, felt a little too predictable.

The Nocturnal Library says:

The instalove…was tragically unfounded and unconvincing. I honestly don’t see why Hunter needed to be present in this book at all and the romance was a serious detriment to my enjoyment of the story. Not that there was much enjoyment to begin with. Nevertheless, I’ve read some pretty horrible books lately, and Mila 2.0 wasn’t quite so bad.