4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
I have read a lot of Young Adult dystopian fiction lately. I really enjoy dystopian, plus there is a bit of trend for it at the moment (just a teeny weeny bit…). This means that these sorts of books have a lot to live up to – and I felt the tone of this one was quite different from the others, which made it even more enjoyable.
To start with, our protagonist, Jenna Strong, is supposedly a criminal. It opens with her in prison – an all-male prison, it’s never quite explained why she’s the only female in there – which sets her character up nicely. She is skilled in combat, tough-skinned and able to defend herself. In the time she has been there she’s forged a reputation for herself, and whilst the new inmates see her as easy pickings, the old ones know better. The reader is immediately given this impression of a cold-hearted young woman, but more and more of Jenna’s past and personality are revealed as the book progresses.
Jenna’s world, like all the setting of all dystopians, is not quite our world. She lives in the Independent Republic of Britain, which is ruled by a force called ACID (I can’t remember if Pass ever mentions what it stands for!). All content is monitored, news screens with approved feeds from the government must be switched on for a set number of hours per day, alcohol and tobacco are banned, prolonged contact with an unrelated member of the opposite sex is illegal, and people are put with a ‘LifePartner’ in their late teens, who they will be with for life. It’s very much your typical dystopian government, all seeing and all controlling – what I’ll never get is why so many of these dystopian governments force people upon each other – and it’s never really explained. It’s mentioned that the rest of the world hasn’t changed – for example, the Internet is just a rumour in the IRB but at one point one of the characters mentions how other countries still have it. So the reasoning behind this radical governmental change is never explained, but I can only assume it happened just within Britain, and not the rest of the world.
Yes, there is a romance. However, it’s only minor – and it’s not a triangle! I actually originally thought it was going to be another guy at first, and I was completely and utterly wrong, which was nice. And to top that off, Emma Pass adds in some great twists – some I saw coming, and others that I did not.
There were a couple of moments I had to question. At one point, Jenna wakes up after a certain big event to find that the people who have taken her in have performed cosmetic surgery on her (actually it happens twice), so she no longer looks anything like herself. She doesn’t even bat an eyelid at this sudden change, which was really weird. Sure, some people might not like their appearance, but I know for one that I would be pretty upset if someone did that to me. I’m used to my features, like my small nose and greenish-brown eyes, even if I do sometimes wish I could change things, and if I were to wake up one day with a big nose and blue eyes I’d freak out more than just a little bit! It would be unsettling, and you wouldn’t feel yourself at all. There was also a bit towards the end where Jenna does something really awesome, and then makes the stupidest decision and basically undoes all her work – and then has to fix it again a bit later on. However, she also makes some unexpected choices throughout the book which really surprised me, so kudos to the author there!
The last section of the story was really fast, tense and action-packed, and really fun to read, although I do think the story concluded a little too quickly. I was at about 95% thinking that it couldn’t possibly wrap up, and wondered if there was a sequel – but no, it did and it’s a standalone novel.
So whilst the world building and explanations could definitely be improved upon, I thought this was generally a really fun read, with a different feel to the other Young Adult dystopian novels out there, and am certainly glad I requested it.