The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park...and discovers truths they could never have imagined.
Released: July 29th 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
First Look: ***** The adult-free, kid/teen-run society plot has been a subtle trend for a long time now. It's never been the big thing, but these books just keep popping up. And, for the most part, I'm into it--I love Gone and The Maze Runner, and then there's the classic Lord of the Flies (with which I have a weird relationship). So, I figured, "Hey, let's give this a shot." Now, though, I'm wondering if we need to give this trend a rest.
Setting: ***** I wish this setting made sense. Sure, I'll accept that the creatively-named Sickness came along and killed everyone except the teenagers, for plot's sake. Once the explanation of the Sickness comes, though, it loses its credibility. (spoiler ahead) Everyone except the teenagers was killed so the world could start fresh, basically. Just...what? Who came up with this flawless plan? Yes, you've gotten rid of the people who started wars and contributed to pollution, etc. But you've also gotten rid of the people who know how to do brain surgery, to run the internet, to be effective leaders. Good going.
Characters: ***** Jefferson, one of the point-of-view characters, is your standard main character hero type. He's a decent leader, a good fighter, has a lot of courage, and is generally respectable and moral. And that's about it. Nothing about him ever grabbed my interest. It's hard to care about someone who is such a Gary Stu. There is no depth to him--he's not a three-dimensional character, which doesn't make him feel like a real person.
I spent most of the time wanting to punch the other POV character, Donna. Most of this has to do with her maddening narration, which I'll discuss later. Her personality is slightly more interesting and unique than Jefferson's, but she also has an annoying habit of trying way too hard to be cool. She uses so many unnecessary slang terms--and other terms that were probably meant to be slang, but I honestly have no idea what they are--and it grated on my nerves. Also, she keeps referring to Kathy as "Tits McGee" long after she learns her real name. Is there a particular reason Donna has to keep degrading her like this, or is it supposed to be funny? Because it isn't.
Plot: ***** With better writing and characters, the plot could have made for an enjoyable book. It moves along at a solid pace without ever getting boring. I may have disliked the POV characters, but hey, at least there's action and suspense.
And the romance. Once it gets started, every other aspect of the plot suddenly becomes less important. It's overbearing and feels forced. I couldn't sense any of the apparent chemistry between Jefferson and Donna. It's more "Well, this is YA, so we have to include a romance otherwise everyone will hate it" than anything else.
Uniqueness: ***** I thought this had the potential to stand out from other books with a similar premise, but it brings nothing new to the table. It just left me feeling like I had read this exact same thing before.
Writing: ***** The writing is the reason I almost didn't finish this book. I don't know if narration has ever made me so mad. It sounds like a written version of that "IDK, my BFF Jill" commercial. It's cluttered with slang terms where slang terms are unnecessary. There's a fine line between having an "authentic" narrative voice and trying too hard, and that line is crossed farther than I've ever seen before. There are terms that are appropriate in a forum post or a tweet, maybe, but not in a novel. Actually, some of these terms shouldn't be used for any purpose, ever. Fun fact: whenever an author uses words like "vajayjay", "teh internetz", "gnarly", "mofo", "NILF" (like MILF, but...nerd), and, God forbid, "anyhooters", a baby panda cries. Sadly, I'm not coming up with those out of nowhere--each of those words is in this book.
This book is also gloriously blessed with a narrator who apparently thinks it's okay to misuse "like" whenever she feels like it. I understand that teenagers sometimes talk like that, but I don't read books in order to be reminded of how many people abuse the English language on an hourly basis. Public Service Announcement: STOP USING "LIKE" THIS WAY IN BOOKS.
Here are a few more highlights:
"A lot of books you read, the author thinks it's cool to have an 'unreliable narrator'. To keep you guessing and to acknowledge that there are no absolutes, and everything is relative, or whatever. Which I think is kind of lame. So--just so you know--I am going to be a reliable narrator. Like, totally."
"I may not be all SAT-wordy like Wash and Jeff, but no way are they gonna lord it over me, knowing bonus words and sh*t."
I think I've just been insulted.
"A lot of girls don't get Star Wars..."
"He gives me sh*t for swearing too much and saying 'like' all the time. Which, yeah? But here's the thing. Everybody thinks that 'like' is just a sort of junk word, empty calories or whatever? But my theory is that it's totally unfairly maligned."
"But I'm sort of kind of a virgin. Not, like, totally. Not, like, Goody Two-Shoes or anything. Like, I've done some stuff, but...yeah."
Also, I've been indirectly insulted again.
"I mean, that's just a metaphor, just another like."
That's not a metaphor. If it uses "like", it's a simile.
"Grief cuts you open. Our nerves are poking out of our flesh and twining around each other like fighting octopi."
And weird analogy:
"Somebody gets accepted into the big university in the sky every few weeks."
Likes: At one point, Donna mentions a few titles of some stories that Jefferson makes up to tell the younger kids. One of them is "The Garage That Ate Bands". I want in on that.
Not-so-great: Jefferson is what, sixteen years old? And he doesn't know what an EMP is. Donna is the same age and doesn't know what bioweapons are. Chris Weitz, you could at least give teenagers some credit.
"The problem with all of this--the Princess Thing and the Jedi Thing--is that--and I can't put too fine a point on this--they are fictional. They don't exist."
Overall: This book could have been so good. Instead, its decent plot is weighed down by an illogical setting and flat, boring characters. And the narration. This is some of the worst narration I've ever read. It's almost four hundred pages of "like", question marks at the end of statements, and other obnoxious slang terms. I wanted to throw this book across the room on a regular basis. I'm disappointed by this, and I do not recommend it to anyone. It might just be the worst book I've read this year. To quote Donna: "Uuuuuuggh. Why?"
Gone, Variant, The Maze Runner, The 100, and Monument 14.