By: Claire Merle
Published By: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: June 7, 2012
Page Count: 432
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Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Dystopian
I found this book a little strange. I thought the ideas were good, and I was engaged, but time after time I also really disliked little bits. I spent some time trying to decide what the issue was, and I think I'm falling down on the side of the writing unfortunately. Sometimes it was fabulous, and at others it was quite weak. I'll say I think that there is significant potential in the author though, and that shone through well enough in sections. I think the story is good enough that I would read a sequel, but I wouldn't rush to it and I would fervently hope that the inconsistencies were ironed out a little more.
What did I like? This was a new idea, which some have said they found offensive, based on a dystopian society where people are segregated on the basis of their genes and predisposition for mental illness. Personally, I didn't take it to be offensive as the 'Crazies' were actually not crazy at all, and I'd actually say that this goes some way to examine the nature of mental illness, and it is a positive subject matter. I also liked the characters most of the time; there was certainly a good chemistry between the male/female lead. There were some cool moments imagining futuristic technologies, but I felt that there was a least one time where I just couldn't picture what was being described at all.
What wasn't great: I found that certain parts of the narrative jumped about irrationally; for example the main character, Ana, literally took off at one point, running away for her life, and then got so far and decided that the people she was running from really weren't that bad, so she turned around and went back to them. At another moment, which I found totally ridiculous, she (as a teenager) passes for a fully qualified lawyer, on the basis that she got interested in legal papers a while back. There were little bits all the way through where I literally did double takes at what was going on because I had missed the link. This could all be down to me and how much attention I was paying, but I am normally a very observant reader. I also found the sudden change of narrators for one of the chapters a little jarring... it did allow me to follow scenes where the main character couldn't describe events for one reason or another, but suddenly being thrust into a new voice for a single chapter was odd.
One moment which really made me shudder seemed to be a Twilight reference... paging "Dr Cullen"? Right next to a reference to a character called Jasper? With a main character, Ana, who cuts her hair to be all jagged and short like Alice's... and dyes it a matching brown? (Whereas she starts off looking like Rosalie?) And a lot of action takes place between Jasper and maybe-Alice/Ana in a mental asylum... Maybe I'm reading too much into that, and a non-Twilight fan wouldn't draw those parallels, but I really wondered if this was another novel which started out as a fanfic at one point. The moment didn't last long though thankfully and I have almost managed to put it down to paranoia now!
All in all, I would say that there is potential here, and the story is good. Perhaps the things which niggled me wouldn't even occur to another reader, so they would find the story even better than I did.
In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.