ISAN by Mary Ting

I was so excited to read Mary Ting’s newest book ISAN (International Sensory Assassins Network) because it’s been a while since I read a good dystopian YA. I also loved the idea of women assassins kicking butt and taking names. It was a great read and I can’t wait to chat more about it.

Here’s more about the book

35820721Meteors devastated the Earth. World Governments developed plans to help surviving citizens. The United States disbanded and salvageable land was divided into four quadrants—North, South, East, and West—governed by The Remnant Council.

Struggling to survive, seventeen-year-old Ava ends up in juvenile detention, until she is selected for a new life—with a catch. She must be injected with an experimental serum. The results will be life changing. The serum will make her better. To receive the serum Ava agrees to join a program controlled by ISAN, the International Sensory Assassin Network.

While on a mission, she is abducted by a rebel group led by Rhett and told that not only does she have a history with him, but her entire past is a lie perpetuated by ISAN to ensure her compliance. Unsure of who to trust, Ava must decide if her strangely familiar and handsome captor is her enemy or her savior—and time is running out.


This was a solid read from a great author. From the moment you start reading this book, you’re enthralled by all the cool fighting and women kicking ass. The story follows Ava, a young recruit to ISAN who is learning how to kill or be killed. Her, along with her team, are the best in the group and ready to take on some real assignments.

ISAN uses this special “serum” that connects with your testosterone levels and enhances your senses. You can see brighter, hear farther away, and even fight better. For some, the serum also gives them some superhuman powers. For Ava, this is the ability to see blueprints and maps of the spaces she’s occupying.

However, Ava starts getting messages from a mysterious “Sniper” that makes her question the reality of her situation. It’s only until she’s kidnapped by “Sniper” that she starts to question everything.

In this situation, it almost feels like I’m reading the plot to The Matrix. Ava is isolated and alone. She doesn’t have any ideas on what ISAN is doing other than training young women to be assassins. She asks questions, but doesn’t get any answers from her trusted superiors. But then, she’s kidnapped by someone who had also escaped ISAN and he shares with her the true identity of the group.

I really liked that this book was in first person. With a book like this and where you’re building out the world, it’s always good to have a character that the reader can use to relate to things. Ava’s lack of knowledge on the goings-on in ISAN helped the readers follow along and learn a little bit more.

While I wish there was a little bit more world building in terms of this dystopian world, I feel like it wasn’t necessary in this case. You get enough of an idea while still being able to follow Ava on her missions. I do hope to see more explanation on the world in the next book.

The book is action-packed! When Ava and her team aren’t on a mission, they’re constantly training so if you’re into action in your books, then this is definitely the book for you.  You also see women kicking some ass and I wondered why it was mostly women assassins. That was until I found out what happened when injecting the serum into men.

I think the biggest pitfall and the reason why I didn’t give this a 5-star review is the fact that it lacks a lot of feminism. This book basically just needs a good dose of it.

For example, when the women were getting ready to go out on their first mission, they were given these gadgets (like James Bond) to help them in dire situations. However, the gadgets were things like explosive earrings, a compact that can detect lasers, and lipstick with a deadly poison when mixed with carbon dioxide. As fun as these gadgets may sound, why are they so centered around modern-day ideas of beauty? After all, this book is set in a dystopian future.

Another example of this is towards the end when Ava is pining after Rhett. Yes, this is a little bit of a spoiler, but it’s also just a low blow. Ava is supposed to be this trained killer and she’s crying in her room because she misses her boyfriend? I honestly feel like her over-explained emotional state wasn’t necessary here and it could have been spun into some cool revenge sequel or even motivate her to find out more about ISAN.

But overall, it’s definitely a great start to another dystopian YA novel. I’m actually very excited to read the next book in this series despite the small pitfalls and world building. I hope you enjoy it too!

  • Paperback, 330 pages
  • Vesuvian Books (May 1, 2018)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.