Tag Archives: Dystopian

Adam Created eve and the eves Served the Inheritants in ‘Only Ever Yours’

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

OnlyEverYours

Plot: 20/20                                             

frieda and isabel have been friends their whole lives. Groomed as eves at a Euro-zone school, they must go head-to-head to secure their Inheritant – to secure their future – unless they want to face a future as a concubine. As the pressure increases, isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her only asset – her beauty – in peril. The boys – the Inheritants – arrive and are eager to choose a bride but can Frieda’s and Isabel’s friendship survive the ceremony?

The story takes place in a male-dominated dystopia and it’s absolutely fascinating. O’Neill touches on bulimia, anorexia, drug use, sex and misogyny and O’Neill obstacles for frieda that compel you to read further while simultaneously disturbing the reader.

Narration: 20/20

O’Neill injects character into the narrative but better still, she earths us in frieda’s mind so that we’re almost literally seeing everything through her eyes, feeling every emotion and hearing every thought. frieda is a character who struggles to uphold her social responsibilities as this wars with her character and we get inside her head and discover her anxieties, fears and insecurities.

Character: 20/20

I love the characters because, although they are always striving for perfection, ultimately we see the cracks in who they are and who they’re pretending to be. We see the malicious megan, the insecure and unsure frieda, the indifferent yet caring isabel and the cruel chastity-ruth. It’s interesting as well because there’s layers to every character. frieda is struggling to discover herself in an environment where she is being trained to serve men. When she stops taking her pills and chastity-anne hands her them, she has an internal struggle; she doesn’t want to take them but she knows she must because that is what man has dictated. We see it with Megan too. She’ll lie and betray everyone around her to climb to the top. She tells frieda that she’s not a bitch, she’s just doing what she was created and taught to do. It’s these internal struggles and the oppressive nature of the world that give each character a duality; a duality that we can’t always see but makes the reader wonder about other facets of the characters exist. Everything down to the names (Darwin, in particular) conveys character. Genius

Quality of Writing: 20/20

The writing is phenomenal. Jeanette Winterson summed it perfectly when she said that O’Neill “writes with a scalpel” and here’s the proof:

  • “… flickering images anaesthizing us into silence.”
  • “Why do I feel as if there is limescale building up inside of me, clogging my air supply?”
  • “The words fill my mouth like marbles, crammed too tight for them to escape.”
  • “It doesn’t feel like a bridge, I think as she leaves. A bridge would feel some way steady. This feels more like I’m balancing on a tightrope of cobwebs.”
  • “The room expands and contracts like an accordion.”

Setting: 10/10

O’Neill creates and shapes a new world, which to me, is a portrait of our world under a microscope and holds kernels of parallel truth for our own society.Her world-building abilities are second to none. She builds a world even though we only see the school. She anchors us in a particular place and reinforces it with societal elements. The eves’ PE classes are basically pole-dancing lessons and they are forced to carry out domesticated tasks like baking in order to gain favour from the Inheritants. Adam created eve. The eves take pills to supprsess their “Unacceptable Emotions”. eves (women) live only to serve the Inheritants (men); a chastity must have her womb cut out and her head shaved in order to sacrifice of all herself to man; a companion lives to serve her husband; a concubine exists to fulfil a man’s carnal desires. Anything that jeopardizes the balance is eradicated; lesbianism is viewed as an act of defiance and the last time it happened, they sewed up their private parts and shot them through the head. This really captures how high the stakes are for the eves; they can’t put a step wrong if they want to survive.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

I’ve honestly never read a dystopian story as powerful as this. The Hunger Games, though not wholly original, was always the pinnacle for me of dytopian fiction but O’Neill has produced something that is flawless; a story that deeply disturbed me.

Overall Score: 100/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Rate it: Winner of the inaugural YA Book Prize and rightly so. Dystopia that delivers on all levels. Dark and edgy and as Jeanette Winterson summed up: “O’Neill writes with a scalpel”.

Books You May Also Like:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – for a similarly cut-throat, dystopian world of betrayal and secrets

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – for an adventure into the unknown with secrets, betrayals and deceit galore

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‘The Giver’ Could Have Given More

The Giver by Lois Lowry

 the-giver

Plot: 11/20

Set in a futuristic Utopia, Jonas is selected as the new Receiver of Memory but when the memories show cracks in his perfect society, he starts to discover dark secrets that lie beneath the surface. I enjoyed the story. It could have been choppier in places and especially in the beginning but overall it’s a good read. What irks me though, is the ending. It feels like the story ends in the wrong place, just short of the conclusion. It’s a bit like ending The Hunger Games before Katniss has even entered the arena.

Narration: 15/20

The narration is third-person though focuses solely on Jonas and what he sees and thinks. While I enjoy the narration, I feel as though it hinders the development of Jonas’ character. It enhances the story-telling but ultimately, it makes Jonas read as a dull, hollow fragment.

Character:11/20

While the characterization isn’t anything to shout about, I can understand the rationale behind this. It’s a story set in a futuristic, perfect world where there is no hunger and pain. The people are all essentially clones. When you take away their freedom of choice, you wipe their personalities. The exceptions being Jonas and the Giver. Having said this, a good story hinges on plot and character. I needed one rebellious character to invest in. I think that was meant to be Asher but I think he’s just an OK character. There’s nothing definitive about him; nothing that grasps and demands my attention. I also would have liked to have seen more evolution in Jonas’ character as the secrets started to surface.

Quality of Writing: 10/20

The writing style is simple which would suit the story if it weren’t for the excessive detail. When Jonas is washing one of the Old, he goes into microscopic detail and in moments like these, it’s easy to zone out and forget about the story. There are moments when we’re told what’s happening when the gestures would suffice. At the Assignments ceremony, we’re told that the crowd is “ill at ease”. It’s not necessary. It fills pages but it detracts from getting to know the world, the characters and progressing with the story. It grates on me that everything has to be explained the minute it’s introduced and that it’s the ordinary, everyday objects like doors that get such elaborate descriptions rather than the rituals and happenings with which we are unfamiliar.

Setting: 10/10

Jonas’ world is explained, not only through place, but through his interactions with other characters and his observations. When he speaks with Lily, we learn that there are significant symbols for each age. Fours, Fives and Sixes have jackets that fasten at the back but on their seventh birthday, they receive a jacket that fastens at the front to teach them independence. We learn about Assignments and the system for acquiring children, for the ritual of death with the Old and it is all of these that reinforce the descriptive detail and anchor us in Jonas’ world.

Comparative Literature: 7/10

The book is twenty-years-old so I can’t exactly compare it to dystopian stories from the last five years. The concepts are strong and the world is fully-realised. The characters are somewhat flat. The plot cuts off at the end rather abruptly when it feels like it’s just about to reach a peak, which is disappointing.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Solid world-building technique
  • Somewhat flat characters
  • A ending that leaves the reader feeling cheated

Overall Score: 64/100

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December 28, 2014 · 3:26 pm

Dorothy Must Die

DMD

Title: Dorothy Must Die

Author: Danielle Paige

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 452 

Plot:

Set in Kansas, Amy Gunn, is an outcast who gets transported during a freak tornado to Oz. But it isn’t the Oz that Amy’s seen in the movie. Nobody’s singing, the inhabitants are terrified and everyone is living under a new tyrannical leader: Dorothy. Aligning herself with the Order of the Wicked, Amy must take down Dorothy and her friends.

I enjoyed the story. I like how Paige lets us see Amy’s life; how miserable she is and her relationship with her depressed mother. There are enough obstacles to keep you reading and as well as going on a physical journey, Amy goes on an emotional one. I would like to point out that Dorothy had silver shoes in the book and not ruby heels. I know this is explained in the prequel novella but I, and I’m sure it will be the same for many readers, didn’t know about the prequel novella until I read the main novel. I also feel let down by the ending. I think most people will agree with this sentiment.

Layered with betrayals, buried in secrets, the story whisks you away to a very different Oz and demands your attention from the very first line:

“I first discovered I was trash three days before my ninth birthday – one day after my father lost his job and moved to Secaucus to live with a woman named Crystal and four years before my mother had the car accident, started taking pills, and began exclusively wearing bedroom slippers instead of normal shoes.”

13/20

Narration:

I love the narrative voice. Amy comes across loud and clear, funny and feisty but more poignant than both of these are the vulnerable moments when her thoughts drift to her mother. There are times when she focuses on Nox and it removes you from the danger she’s in and the difficulty of what she’ll eventually have to do. Also, the petty jealousy with Melindra and the somewhat clichéd girl-hating-girl-for-no-reason element is a little stale.

15/20

Character:

New and classic characters feature side by side in Paige’s dystopian Oz. To the classic, Danielle shows a darker edge and builds back-stories around them, their relationships and their motivations. The new characters come across with strong personalities that rival the darker, well-established characters from Baum’s original.

Paige builds up Amy’s character for the first line. The “Salvation Amy” taunt is a nice touch. It’s not overused but it keeps it fresh in our minds who Amy Gunn is at all times. It also refreshes her tumultuous relationship with her mother. Her weaponizations of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Lion are both horrific and imaginative.

Some of my favourite moments are:

  • “It wasn’t hot and it wasn’t cold. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before – including the time when I was little and I put my finger in a lightbulb socket to see what would happen.”

  • “‘Ugh! It would literally hurt! He has knives for fingers’, Dorothy complained.” (Loved Dorothy!)

  • Jellia: “‘Remember––it’s a thousand strokes. Not a thousand and one and not nine hundred and ninety-nine. Don’t lose count. Dorothy will know. She always does––we’ve lost more than one girl that way. If there’s one thing to say about Hannah, it’s that she certainly could count.’”

20/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing quality is set at a high standard though the cultural references to Star Wars and the like distract you from Oz. Assume that the reader will have the slightest knowledge of Oz and push forward with the darker aspects of the story and build on the new characters.

When Amy says that Dorothy’s lips were “shellacked in plasticky crimson”, it’s slightly confusing. I misread it as a typo and thought she meant shellac. Not sure if they have shellac nails in the US but I drew a comparison between nails and lips and found it jarring. I think saying “varnished” or “polished” would have ironed this out. Sometimes, Amy would almost spoon-feed the reader with descriptions, telling us what to think like when she describes what Dorothy is wearing but then tells us that she’s looks like a hooker. Give the reader some credit and let us work that out for ourselves.

This aside, there were some beautiful phrases:

  • “There was a pause I could drive a truck through.”

  • “Dorothy’s boobs were out to here, her legs up to there.”

  • “The Tin Woodman’s forehead crumpled like aluminium foil, then smoothed itself out again as he considered the idea.”

16/20

Setting:

I like how Paige portrays Oz and draws it back to Amy’s knowledge of it. I felt that we maybe could have seen more of the world though. A large portion of the story takes place with the Order of the Wicked and this might have been an opportunity to either show or tell us more about Oz.

7/10

Comparative Literature:

When you turn a utopic world into a dystopia by changing one character, a lot can wrong. The world must reflect the shift in power, the cast of characters change but the characters must show a range of qualities. The second challenge lies in that some of the original characters in Baum’s original were somewhat one-dimensional or rather, they had one motivation. The Scarecrow wanted a brain and to help Dorothy. Dorothy wanted to go home. The Wicked Witch of the West wanted Dorothy’s shoes. They all had one true desire. And while each character in Paige’s retelling has one true desire, they show a myriad of emotions and motives; a rich layering of the complexities of human nature. Paige uses the popularity and reader’s familiarity with Oz as a springboard to accelerate her story and push it into new, darker territory. The story piques the reader’s curiosity and forces us to keep reading in an attempt to find answers to the questions that are presented similar to Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed. The world is dark and the characters memorable like Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series. Both stories incorporate myths and more established stories – Kagawa’s, of the fey in (Sir Orfeo) and Angelini’s, of Helen of Troy – and use them as a base for their story but do not rely on that. Rather, they push the story further and Paige’s Dorothy Must Die is no different.

10/10

Overall Score:

81/100

Books You May Also Like:

No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige – to get answers to some of your questions like, how did Dorothy become evil? What happened to her aunt and uncle?

The Iron Fey series by Julia Kagawa – for a story about fairy lore with a creative twist

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August 7, 2014 · 10:58 am

Allegiant

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Title: Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 526

Plot:

The plot leaves us where the second book ended. The faction system has been abolished and Tris and her friends are awaiting trial. Although the faction system is gone, the lack of freedom remains. Evelyn tells everyone that they have choices as long as they don’t stay loyal to the factions – which is brutally enforced – and it isn’t long before Tris and Tobias realise this. I have a couple of issues with the plot. Firstly, Edith Prior has her memory wiped and it’s suggested that this is because she must have seen something terrible but it’s never actually specified and though we could deduce that it’s associated with the fringe, it would have more impact if we knew exactly what she saw or endured. Secondly, we know that David loved Tris’ mother. That’s not a spoiler. You can see that clearly very early on it’s hinted that the code to the Weapons lab could be her mother’s name. Maybe I’m reading to much into this (?) but if this is the case, it creates a flaw in Tris’ character in that she’s not all that smart and a flaw in the plot. I also don’t feel that the world is fully realised; that the superiors of the Bureau would just accept the conclusion to the events. Worse than this, Jeanine’s connection is never fully explained and it just confuses things. The Bureau send in Tris’ mother to save the Divergents but give Jeanine the attack simulation to weed out and exterminate the Divergents? This makes zero sense. The whole outside the fence explanation is weak as well. Experiments to promote good genes and rid the world of bad genes. Overly ambitious, wholly unnecessary and 100% ludicrous. Genetics is a branch of science but you can’t eradicate bad genes, especially not in the crazy experiments the Bureau carries out. The ending feels like a bit of a let-down, given the build-up of tension across three novels.

5/20

Narration:

The narration doesn’t work for me as well as it did in the previous instalments. Tobias’ episodic glimpses at the end convey more of his character than I get throughout the novel. There’s no real distinction between Tris and Tobias. For the most part, they’re together and Tobias doesn’t offer us much more insight to their world. If you covered the name, you still wouldn’t really have any clue who’s speaking because both voices are pretty much the same. And worse, the narrative styles become so similar that you have to constantly remind yourself who’s speaking.

14/20

Character:

I love the characters in Roth’s world. I love Tris as the self-sacrificing hero – the one who runs into battles to protect the ones she loves – even though she probably irritates most people. She’s not dissimilar to Katniss in The Hunger Games. I like Tobias and the relationship he has with his mother and his parents in themselves are interesting characters and their conflict adds a spark to the story – a sense of conflict and much-needed tension. Cara really grew on me. As always, I love Christina and how much she’s grown since the first book. And though this might sound unusual, I have soft spot for Johanna Reyes. The most important thing for me is that Roth’s characters are consistent and they evolve and change with each book. I didn’t buy David as an antagonist. He wasn’t as formidable as either Evelyn or Jeanine even though he has more power than both. I question the concluding moments of Tobias’ and Evelyn’s relationship. I’m not going to spoil anything but yeah, seems like a quick way to tie up loose ends.

14/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing quality is superb, There are some beautiful phrases and analogies:

  • “But now I know I am like the blade and he is like the whetstone- I am too strong to break so easily, and I become better, sharper, every time I touch him.” (416)
  • “I look at her, and I can see the way time has worn her like an old piece of cloth, the fibers exposed and fraying.” (463)

Just a couple of example but Roth avoids clichés and writes in a way that connects back to her characters and the world she has created.

20/20

Setting:

Similar to Lu’s world in the Legend trilogy, Roth focuses on a small aspect of her world – the Dauntless compound – in Divergent, zooms out on the faction system, exploring Amity and Erudite among other areas and zooms out further again in the final book demonstrating just how small their world is and showing us that the people in the experiment never had any power to begin with.

10/10

Comparative Literature:

The style is similar to Lu in that we see more and more of the world with each book though, unlike the Legend trilogy, Tris’ and Tobias’ voices aren’t distinguishable like June’s and Day’s. It’s a faster-paced novel than the Ally Condie’s Matched series thought the parameters aren’t always as clear. Like The Hunger Games, the conclusion of the trilogy falls short of the first and second books though The Hunger Games offers continued action and brutal force from a cruel, calculating leader in President Snow unlike David who doesn’t seem that altogether for the most part.

4/10

Overall Score:

67/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • An interesting world divided into factions
  • A daring hero that must fight to survive
  • Great fight scenes
  • An explanation that might leave you baffled
  • Plot holes that compound your confusion

Books You May Also Like:

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – if you loved the dual points of view and the cruelty in this dystopian world

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – if you loved the savagery and brutality of Roth’s world

Legend by Marie Lu – for a corrupt, dystopian world, lots of action and strong male and female protagonists

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Insurgent

Insurgent

Title: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages:

 

Plot:

Continuing on from Divergent, we are plunged straight into the aftermath of the extermination in the previous book. Tris carries secrets that take a toll on her health and she struggles to hold a gun, constantly thinking about how she shot Will. One thing that did seem a bit off is when Tris enters Erudite headquarters, there’s no mention of her being searched which seems logical. Known to always bring a weapon, I can’t understand why Roth doesn’t explicitly say she has been searched. It makes you think that, similarly when she encountered Eric previously, she may have a knife tucked away.

 

17/20

Narration:

The narration is first-person, present tense and the second book in this trilogy offers us more personality. Tris’ thoughts allow us to witness her feistier side that we did not get to fully witness in Divergence while also elaborating more on her decision-making and thought processes which factor into the way the story is told. There are times when Tris still comes off a bit robotic but the narration in this book is definitely better than the first.

19/20

Character:

We get more of a sense of who Tris this time around. Her Divergence is explained we get to see her bad-ass, tough attitude balanced with her vulnerability at certain points throughout the novel; self-sacrificing nature is balanced with her guilt. We get an insight into Tobias’s background and his relationship with Marcus. New characters are introduced and the existing character cast continues to demonstrate multi-faceted natures and diversity – some of whom have secrets and agendas of their own. I like that Roth demonstrates Tris’ desire to still hold on to her old life and her parents and still want to move forward and fight for a better world. One of my favourite moments is when a Candor boy is searching Tris and she comes out with this zinger:

“”I have a knife in my back pocket.” I say. “Put your hands on me, and I will make you regret it.” (121)

20/20

Quality of Writing:

The quality of writing, for the most part, is on point. There are temporary lapses in the quality like when Tris is with the factionless and she undercuts her position by telling us  that she doesn’t “smell very good” (112). Also, there are times when Roth overuses “say”/”says” in dialogue and, though it’s not that noticeable, there are instances when it’s unnecessary and could be cut. When Lynn meets Hector, she repeats that Lynn stepped on her toes to show us that that they are not friends when we already no this and serves only as spoon-feeding us information. On another occasion, Tris mentions that Four smells like water. I’ll leave it at that.

14/20

Setting:

Great world-building and we finally get more of an insight into the faction system. Although, I’m still not sure what it is that Candor does. Just saying.

9/10

Comparative Literature:

A lively, action-packed, funny sequel to Roth’s Divergent. Roth amends many of the downsides in the first book and manages to improve the quality of the writing while still holding to, and even strengthening, Tris’ voice. It’s more interesting than Crossed, Ally Condie’s sequel to Matched. It’s a solid read and those that finished Divergent and didn’t gel with it, might want to give Insurgent a go. It doesn’t cost a penny. Go to your local library now. Yes, now. Well then, turn off the Kardashians. Yes, There’s still time. And I’ll leave the crazy there… for now.

9/10

 

Overall Score:

88/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • An stronger, more developed world
  • A daring hero that must fight to survive with a stronger, kick-ass voice
  • Great fight scenes

Books You May Also Like:

Matched by Ally Condie – if you liked the romantic element and the world-building

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- if you loved the savagery and cruelty of Roth’s world

Legendby Marie Lu – for a corrupt, dystopian world, lots of action and strong male and female protagonists

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April 18, 2014 · 10:50 am

Divergent

Image

Title: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 496

 

Plot:

The plot centres around Tris’ initiation into Dauntless (one of five factions that comprise her society). The five societies are as follows:

  1. Abnegation (representing charity and selflessness)
  2. Candor (truth)
  3. Erudite (knowledge)
  4. Dauntless (bravery and courage).
  5. Amity (peace and kindness).

Tris leaves her family behind in a quest to discover herself but being divergent, she poses a danger to the faction leaders and Tris must do everything she can to fit in and survive the physical and mental tests that lie ahead.

There are obstacles enough to keep the reader reading. Tris must overcome physical and mental assessments that push her to the limit, cruel adversaries and even crueller leaders if she is to make it into Dauntless. The only issue I had with the plot is that 80% of the book deals with Tris’ initiation and while it’s great to see how tough it is for her to leave her family behind and embrace her new faction (and the sheer brutality that is standard in Dauntless), I would like to see more about the factions and how they function individually and collectively to form this so-called peaceful society. We get a great sense of Dauntless and how hard it is for Tris but this tends to overshadow other aspects of Roth’s world.

15/20

Narration:

The narration is first-person, present tense and for the most part, it works in getting us closer to Tris and the action. It’s particularly effective in the fight and action scenes. The narration sometimes lacks personality though. There are occasions where it can seem a bit distant and robotic.

18/20

Character:

Roth chronicles Tris’ journey from Abnegation, where she is taught to be selfless, to Dauntless, where she performs death-defying stunts and lives on the egde. Before the Choosing Ceremony, Tris’ personality is difficult to locate. I know she’s supposed to be selfless but others in her faction still manage to demonstrate some sense of personality. Christina is one of the standouts for me. Her smartass Candor remarks really keep the conversation lively. Though Roth’s collection of characters are situated in factions, the factions do not define them completely. They show themselves to be multi-faceted.

16/20

Quality of Writing:

Roth is great at crafting most scenes, her speciality lying in action scenes and fight sequences – but the scenes between Tris and Four could do with a little bit more tailoring.

18/20

Setting:

Great world-building but I wan to know more about how the society functions with the five factions and what each faction does specifically to allow for the society to continue to function as it does.

8/10

Comparative Literature:

Better than some dystopian fiction – such as Ally Condie’s Matched – but flawed in areas that Marie Lu and Suzanne Collins manage to address in Legend and The Hunger Games, Divergent is not at the front of the pack though it does deliver on numerous levels. There is evidence of world-building even if it is not thoroughly explored as it is in The Hunger Games, a strong heroine and a vivid insight into faction life in Dauntless.

8/10

 

Overall Score:

83/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • An interesting world divided into factions
  • A daring hero that must fight to survive
  • Great fight scenes

Books You May Also Like:

Matched by Ally Condie – if you liked the romantic element and the world-building

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – if you loved the savagery and cruelty of Roth’s world

Legend by Marie Lu – for a corrupt, dystopian world, lots of action and strong male and female protagonists

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Gone

gone

Title: Gone

Author: Michael Grant

Publisher: Electric Monkey (an imprint of Egmont UK Limited)

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 560

Adults disappear. Kids develop powers. A dome cages them in and beneath the surface, a dark beast lurks, biding its time.

I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong Michael Grant to  and Electric Monkey.

Excerpt taken from Page 3:

“ONE MINUTE THE teacher was talking about the Civil War.

And the next minute he was gone.

There.

Gone.

No ‘poof’. No flash of light. No explosion.

Sam Temple was sitting in third-period history class staring blankly  at the blackboard, but far away in his head. In his head, he was down at the beach, he and Quinn. Down at the beach with their boards, yelling, bracing for that first plunge into cold Pacific water.

For a moment, he thought he had imagined it, the teacher disappearing. For a moment, he thought he’d slipped into a daydream.

Sam turned to Mary Terrafino, who sat just to his left. ‘You saw that, right?'”

Narration:

The narration in this novel is on-point throughout. The narrative style is third-person, allowing us an insight into the lives of many of the Perdido Beach and Coates inhabitants, while centring around more crucial characters like Sam, Caine and Drake. Grant builds up an interlinking story arc with various different characters that builds a foundation for the plot, setting up the obstacles and events to come. He deliberately builds up the dramatic tension and leaves you on somewhat of a cliff-hanger as to what the fate of the character is, what they might have discovered, what they are about to do or simply leave you excited and wanting to find out what happens next when they make a defining choice that will change the course of the novel. The descriptions and observations are also sensory, unlike some YA novels that become over-reliant on observation alone. Grant dramatises many of the facts instead of stating them too which makes for a more interesting read. For example, we know from the dialogue between Lana and her grandfather that he is 75 (or 76). We can piece that information together ourselves. As readers, we aren’t being spoon-fed. There are places though, where I feel as though Grant tells us about the character’s background or what they are thinking where he could possibly have found ways to dramatise this information, either in actions or dialogue.

At times, there is a little excessive detail though, more so in the description of the dialogue. Telling us that Astrid berates herself when we already know it, both given the situation and her words. It also feels as though there is a lapse in the narrative voice in places:

“They veered towards it. There might be food or water or shelter.”

Otherwise, the narrative is seamless and though some might argue that Grant focuses on too many characters’ viewpoints, I would argue the opposite. Yes, there is a lot to process but Grant’s sharp delivery of the prose and the fast pace of the plot make it easy to absorb the information.

14/20

Character:

Grant’s characterisation really is one of the strongest points of his writing. It’s not just a case of black-and-white with each character. There are psychological complexities that mirror people in everyday life. It’s not a case of: “he’s evil” or “she’s good” and that’s it. Grant takes us on a rollercoaster journey with each character. The characters change, develop and adapt in their new environment. Diana is, for me, one of the most interesting characters. She’s manipulative and crafty; a perfect combination of beauty and sarcasm who does whatever she has to, to survive. It’s a game of “survival of the fittest” and Diana is in it for herself. Sam is an interesting choice as the hero – the protagonist – of the story. He makes mistakes. He has blood on his hands. He’s not the ideal hero and yet, he is hope personified for the kids at  Perdido Beach. He is what they need; what they invest in; who they turn to. And his guilt is captured brilliantly throughout.

20/20

Plot:

The plot is pretty simply until you look beyond what is happening and ask why it is happening. Kids start to develop abilities. A dome covers Perdido Beach and Coates Academy. Kids over the age of 15 disappear. And kids that turn 15 in the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) still continue to disappear. But why is it all happening? And Grant doesn’t offer us half-baked, convoluted reasoning. He reveals tidbits – tasters even – throughout the story, a little at a time, until we gradually build up a picture of what has happened, what is happening and why it is happening. There are plenty of obstacles, action scenes, humour and new developments that alter the course of the journey dramatically.

20/20

Setting: 

We get a detailed description of where everything is and what the buildings look like. There’s also a map supplied though there’s enough in the text to anchor the landmarks – the Nuclear Plant, Coates, the Mine Shaft and so on – in our minds. There’s not much more to say. The setting is interwoven with the fast-paced plot so that the delivery of the descriptive details doesn’t pull us out of the world Grant has created.

20/20

Comparative Literature/Originality: 

The story is, in some sense, a re-working of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. It follows the same basic idea. The kids are stranded on a deserted island and left to fend for themselves. Cue the power struggle before the adults come to rescue the kids. Gone works on a similar plot structure. What differentiates it from Golding’s work is it’s unique evolution of the landscape, the kids themselves and the mystery and menace that lurks behind the scenes. The story is complex with an overarching narrative that encompasses many of the characters. It breaks down characters, that could potentially turn out one-dimensional, and shows the complexities and, in some cases, the psychological processes behind their decisions.

20/20

Summary:

Great characters. Fantastic world-building. Actioned-packed, twist-and-turns plot. A must read.

Overall Score:

94/100

Books You May Also Like:

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

BZRK by Michael Grant

Eve And Adam by Michael Grant

The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Lord Of The Flies by William Golding

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December 19, 2013 · 2:22 pm