Goodreads has been suggesting this book to me for months in its “so you read this, you would probs like this” guilt ads so I decided to request it at the library and see if the recommendation held.
Wow oh wow is this book good. Now, I felt this way about Delirium too, and then venturing into the rest of the series became an exercise in hate reading so I could write revenge reviews, so I don’t want to get too excited about the next one in this series (Prodigy) lest I be burned again.
Marie Lu writes her characters into a dystopian future where there is the Republic of America and the mysterious rebel-esque Colonies protected by the Patriots, an insurgent type group that attacks and subverts the efforts of the Republic. The boundaries of the Republic seem to be the Western United States, Central, and South America, and the idea of the United States of America seems to be a myth that no one has been alive long enough to confirm as true.
We are not brought into the full understanding of how America came to be this way, nor do we understand how long it has existed as a Republic. We are only told of these Colonies and that the Republic is at war with them at the front, which we don’t get to see first hand in this book. There is also a very distinct line between social classes, with poor people living in districts (more like neighborhoods than the strict Hunger Games-style districts) and the rich living in nicer apartments. All children participate in the Trial at age…10 I think? which measures their physical and mental abilities and assigns them to certain jobs or positions based on their scores. Those who fail are sent to “labor camps” to work.
So it’s like The Giver meets Hunger Games meets The Man in the High Castle, kind of?
Overlaying the war and the class issues is a “plague” that is sweeping through the poorer sectors. Cures are available for sale, developed by the government, but often the poor cannot afford them. Police sweep through the districts looking for possible infected individuals, blocking off neighborhoods when necessary and marking infected houses with large red Xs on the doors.
Our two main characters are June (rich, military, wicked smart) and Day (poor, wicked smart, Robin Hood). Day discovers that his youngest brother has been identified as having the plague and attempts to steal a cure. June’s brother Matias is on guard at the hospital that night and almost apprehends him, and catches a knife in the shoulder for his trouble. Day escapes with medicine, and Matias is discovered dead. The investigations and discoveries that follow are suspenseful, interesting, and scene-setting for the future books in the series.
My only critique is the incessant need for YA to inject a love story into every goddamn plot. This book would still have been amazing if June and Day weren’t 15 years old and smitten with each other. This was a book that is so good that I forget that the protagonists are teenagers. There is no angst, the storylines are good, and the conflict compelling; do they really need to kiss to add to it? Is the absence of teen romance the death knell of a good YA story? I think not, but authors do not seem to be willing to take the chance.
Luckily the presence of romance is so small that it would not deter me from suggesting you read this book. It’s amazing. I read it in two days. I loved it. I will read the next one. Go get you some.