In many ways this 338 page dystopian YA fiction book focuses more on romance than the super human powers the 17 year old protagonist has and the role she will play in the resistance. That isn’t to say the book is bad, just that it isn’t as high action, or reform-a-broken-world, or even use-my-super-powers-to-save-myself-and-those-around-me as I had hoped. It is more a lot of self loathing, desire, and anger. That being said, I am on the fence about reading the rest of the series, as this is the start of a six book series, with two “half” novellas interjected in and being told from other characters’ perspectives. If this was a show pilot, however, I would let Netflix automatically start the next episode until I had binge watched the entire season, not necessarily because the story is great, or the characters amazing, or the writing stellar, but because it is easy and fun and you really want to suspend belief and know who all these attractive mutated teens running a broken world are, and yes you will roll your eyes at the syrupy sweet lust filled pages, but it is YA so maybe I’m just overly cynical and 15 year olds and up will enjoy it. It is an AR 4.3, but the language, violence, and romantic build ups should not be read by 4th graders.
The book starts with Juliette counting how many days she has been locked up in a cell, 264, void of human interaction of any sort and hinting at the reason her parents feared her and turned her in. She is then joined by a male cellmate, Adam, one she slowly realizes she remembers from her youth and is in love with. As he asks her questions we learn a bit about her power and the state of the world. Juliette can kill people with her touch and apparently has killed someone, a child. Her parents, along with everyone else, have always feared her, and not being hugged or touched her whole life has definitely been a painful existence for her. Adam is a soldier and can touch her, he is also planted to learn about her as part of his job. Warner, another teen, is in charge of a soldiers in the Reestablishment and has been following Juliette for a long time trying to see how they can weaponize her and use her for their cause. Adam was playing a role, and now Juliette will have to play one in a world where the food is fake, the clouds the wrong color, and artifacts of culture and life before it all fell apart are destroyed and deemed illegal. Along the way she will have to see the world in shades of gray and be willing to forgive and understand that people are not just for or against the way things, are, that sometimes you just have to do things to survive and protect the ones you love.
WHY I LIKE IT:
With all the talk of Iran in the news, I felt compelled to read a book with a Persian character, or at least by a Persian author, so I revisited the works of Iranian-American Muslim Tahereh Mafi. The book reminds me of a Bollywood drama from the 90s where the hero and heroine do everything suggestive, except kiss, in this book they do a lot, but I guess don’t quite cross a line. The scenes with Adam and Juliette are too much at times, where the story building about her understanding herself, her world, and what her powers can be, too little. The stage however, is set for the book and characters to grow in the series and with that optimism of knowing that the story stretches on, I have to hope the twists and turns make for a more interesting ride than this first book presents. Most of the drama is already spelled out on the back cover, she can kill people just by touching them, she wrestles with seeing herself as a monster, or as being more than human. It really doesn’t start getting good until she finds others like her, but then she is bored of them and the book ends. The book has a huge following, so much like perhaps the Twilight series, maybe I’m just too cynical, and not in the target demographic, or maybe I need to keep reading.
There is violence, *SPOILER* Juliette accidentally kills a child. There is language, there is suggestive talk, there are romantic passages with kissing and touching. For a book about a character who can’t touch, I feel like the majority of the book is about her touching and being touched.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I wouldn’t do this as a book club, because I feel like it really is just a book setting the stage for what more is to come and because it ends so abruptly it feels almost like a teaser, yes a 300+ page teaser. I was hoping that I could at least suggest it to readers of Hunger Games, City of Ember, The Giver, etc., but I don’t think it spends enough time on the crisis of the world at hand, and the adjustments made by a select few to appeal to the same readers. It really is a romance, at least thus far, and the destruction of life and the environment just a back drop for their storyline.