Aerin Renning and Dane Madousin have gained entrance to Academy 7, the most prestigious school in the Alliance. Neither expect their stay to be long. Aerin is a fugitive from a slave planet, trapped there after her father's ship crash landed many years earlier and he was killed. Dane's father suspects Dane has cheated as his eldest son, Paul, never made the cut. There is no love lost between father and son. While navigating the intense curriculum, Dane and Aerin draw on one another's strengths and begin to form a friendship, one that will see them uncover the truth about their parents and the inner workings of the Alliance.
I picked up Academy 7 after I read Tamora Pierce's glowing review on Goodreads. I was also surprised, as she was, that it was sci-fi. The cover gives no indication. While it's light on space and science, there's just enough to give it that sci-fi flavour.
YA novels set in boarding schools were (and still are, really) de rigeur in the literature when this book was published (2009), and it can be a little difficult to get excited about the setting. But Osterlund manages to make it fresh with the sci-fi aspect and doesn't fill the pages with school cliches. Aerin Renning stands out from the typical new-girl-in-school character. I enjoyed her almost Aspergers-like personality, particularly when it was shown through Dane's eyes. Osterlund takes her time developing the friendship and romance between the pair. It's a slow burn rather than the bolt out of the blue, inexplicably-drawn-to rubbish that's so common in paranormal lit. I liked both of them very much. In fact, all the characters were carefully drawn and believable.
Academy 7 is light on sci-fi, but heavy on characterisation and story. A very pleasant read.