I was flat out excited to land this ARC when it popped up on Netgalley. I had my eye on this one for a while, and I finished it as soon as I could. The Neptune Project targets a young audience wishing to work at Sea World when they reach an adult age (which isn't a bad thing). The author knew her stuff, and the sea creature portion of the book was highly enjoyable. The writing formula, sadly, really crippled the novel, and I wish that middle grade authors would stop stealing Twilight's "secret formula" and focus on a solid book without the cheesy romance plots and shipping wars.Nere, as a character, was a bit flat. I allow middle grade novels a little bit of slack on this part, but she was borderline dull. Her character growth and minimal whining about her old, unpopular life saved her from pre-teen Mary Sue-ism. Her development as a stronger character was quite enjoyable. There was just a handful of other characters that was wonderfully developed. However, most of the cast in the book was "typecasted", such as the oh-so-common "Mean Girls" clique, the forced love triangle/square male roles, the disliked male leader, the cutesy child role, and the antagonist gang. While I am on the subject, the possible romances in the book made me literally cringe. There was the old flame, the sweetheart and obvious smart choice, and the mysterious bad boy with a secret past with a face of a god. However, what I saw was this: Checklist, checklist, and checklist, now start an online fangirl war with your FAVORITE Nere pairing! The novel's concept was strong enough without the horribly pasted together romance mess. The popular girl club rubbed me the wrong way as well. In fact, a majority of the book felt like the author was filling in a writing template. The odd lack of emotions from time to time didn't help The Neptune Project's case when I suspected that the book was written with an outline.So what did I like about the book? It seems that I have picked it apart from the start. The world building was interesting, and I would like to see where this series goes. The author did create a government that was believable and the pacing was just right. I think the author had a great idea in mind, and I am hoping that she breaks out of the mold and keeps away from the reading trap that has been beating the poor dead horse into glue. Not a bad book, but I want to see middle grade authors kick this writing trend to the sidelines.