Jen Maddox is a few days into her summer study abroad program and has loved every moment. She just left Mexico and is back on her cruise ship campus, ready to sail to Panama. Everyone tells her that the experience will change her life, but none of them realize just how drastic the change will be.
One night she goes out on deck and encounters five other students. She knows Charlie from one of her classes and he's a funny, friendly, regular guy. Picture-perfect Dani and his gorgeous wife Mariana live right down the hall from Jen. And she has seen TS, who's built like a truck, around the ship and recognizes the cute, but quiet Thomas as well.
Then Jen sees something that isn't humanly possible. Jen would have thought that it was all a dream, if not for the fact that Charlie, Dani, Mariana, TS, and Thomas are making every effort to cover it up. Suddenly, the five of them are everything but normal and Jen is determined to figure out what they're hiding.
When she does, her life really does change. Jen expected to spend her summer studying ancient Aztec and modern Panamanian worlds, but she never dreamed she'd learn about a magical one. Or find herself in it.
But Jen's childhood fantasy come true is about to turn into a nightmare; there's something on the ship. Something dangerous. Suddenly, everyone on board is threatened by a creature Jen never even believed existed. Jen and her new friends might be the only people who can stop it!
Now Jen has to learn everything she can about her new world before it kills her. And her friends. And maybe everyone on the entire ship.
5 Stars and Gold Medal for YA Paranormal: If you are looking for a fantasy story that combines popular themes like werewolves, vampires, wizards, and witches in a different way and is filled with unique characters, then Semester Aboard is a book you should put on your 'to read' list.
Jen, who is on a moving campus, i.e. a cruise ship, for a semester learns a lot more than just what is on her timetable during that trip. One night she sees a group of other students on deck and something quite unusual happens that baffles Jen. The rest of the group notice her and from then on follow her around to make sure Jen tells nobody about what she saw. While they spend time with her, the strange group of students also notice something special about Jen – that she is more like them than like normal humans.
Kirke weaves a story about a variety of mythical beings in Semester Aboard and shows where they clash, where they work together well, where they need each other, and how there is no clear line between which kind of being is good and which not. Thankfully, this book is not one of those trashy vampire/werewolf novels that are cluttering bookshelves in book stores these days. It's a delightfully different take on fantasy creatures and the friendships between the different characters are believable and touching. You start liking the characters and you get comfy with the book – it almost feels like you are part of the group and right in the middle of it. You simply do not want it to end! I really hope that there will be a sequel. It would be so very interesting to see what else happens in the lives of all those characters and to read another beautifully written book.
— Reviewed by Kim Anisi for Readers' Favorite