ARC Review: Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski


I wanted to be a pioneer. To dare mighty things. What was out there would forever call to me, and the things I could do for history were more important than my one little life.”
Thank you very much to HarperCollins for providing a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Dare Mighty Things is an extraordinary debut that features an Indian-American asexual protagonist in the fight of her life for the slim opportunity to go to space. Heather Kaczynski’s novel is a thrilling tale of ambition, power and deadly secrets that will change the course of human history.


THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.
Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.
As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.


Dare Mighty Things was chock full of suspense and my eyes were glued to the page, frantically reading, determined to find out just what the mission was exactly about. I love stories about space and add to that a classified mission, military secrets, and a chance to travel the universe? Um, sign me up!

Kaczynski’s writing was a little elementary, but it is very easy to get swept up into the story and assimilate to her writing style. I actually believe that her straightforward writing perfectly matched the tone of the novel as the book deals with scientific fact and theories (that I assume are correct). Nevertheless, I was impressed by Kaczynski’s inclusion of these fascinating astronomical (?) theories. (Clearly, I don’t understand anything about science.)

“Be good. Try hard. Make — try to make some friends, huh?”
“It’s not summer camp, Mom.”

The plot was fast paced and didn’t let up for a second. I was so intrigued by what Kaczynski has created here, and I felt as though a plot twist was coming the entire time I was reading this book. It takes skill to sustain that fear and worry in a reader, especially over the course of 300 pages. I can’t wait to read the sequel now.

I thought Cassie, the protagonist, was just amazing and such a wonderful role model. She is incredibly ambitious and will stop at nothing to secure a spot in this prestigious trip, and I’m so thankful that a character like Cassie even exists. So often, girls in YA don’t focus on the same things Cassie does: a future, a career, the chance of a lifetime. I don’t mean to bag other YA girls because many of them are badass, but so many of them also stem from fantasy books. When I think of contemporary YA girls, most of them focus on the romance aspect of their lives, and that is totally their prerogative; I just want to see a few more teen girls focus on themselves too. You don’t read many books with girls like Cassie – girls who work extremely hard to make something of themselves – and I desperately want more.

I don’t mold my identity to make others more comfortable. I’m just myself. I make goals and I go after them. If that puts people off, that’s on them, not me.

Cassie is also asexual – or at the very least relates quite strongly to asexuality – and I absolutely love that different identities are taking YA by storm. Straight white characters are no longer the norm and Kaczynski understands this. Almost all of the secondary characters are POC, including Cassie, which was fantastic to see. Cassie’s friends, Emilio and Mitsuko, were great characters – they act like Cassie’s older brother and sister and try to make Cassie feel welcome, while also reminding her of the benefits of friendship. Cassie, who has never had a friend in her life, is a little awkward, but she emerges from her shell with the help of her two friends.

Dare Mighty Things was one of the most fascinating YA books I’ve read this year. The plot was complex but engaging, the characters all geniuses but heartfelt, and the writing straightforward but works to move the plot along. Also … that ending?!?! Holy crap, I need the next book ASAP!

4 stars

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Dare Mighty Things is set for publication 10 October, 2017. All quotes used in this review were taken from an advance copy and should be checked against a final version of the novel.

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