Author: JA Souders
Genre: YA, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, romance
Publication Date: November 13, 2012 (TorTeen/Macmillan – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided finished copy
Summary: Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.
But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.
Her memories have been altered.
Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.
And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.
Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb… and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – a new haunting “Dollhouse” for the YA set!
Review: Okay, so, guys, one of my favorite TV shows of all time is Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse”. It’s extremely complex, and it deals with memory manipulation, as well as personality implantation. What if you could do that – do that to anyone? “Renegade” explores that and a whole lot more in its own way in a world a little over a hundred years from now, contrasting the awful “Surface” to the underground paradise of “Elysium”. Trust me, guys (and especially Whedon fans!), Souders does a fantastic job with with her debut, and it’s something you definitely can’t miss.
My life is just about perfect.
Okay, was anyone else flashing on Whedon’s Dolls’ refrain of, Did I just fall asleep? I know I was. And that’s one of the things I really loved about this book. To the point where I was willing to forgive the semi-insta-love that happened (and believe me, for that to happen, I have to be really forgiving). The bio-ethics exploration is one of the things that seems most sturdy, important of the plot, even with the romance and action that happens. And I’m so happy that Souders made it that important. Is it okay to “condition” a three-year-old child so she can become a killing machine? Is it okay to “condition” a seventeen year-old-girl to keep her compliant to the goals you have in mind for her? Is it okay to implement eugenics to keep your own population in check, and should you find “defective” genes, is it okay to “scrub” the gene pool? Is any of that okay, period? This book explores ALL of these questions with a surprising grace, also making it very readily accessible for those that maybe aren’t familiar with biopunk or bio-ethics, as well as the frankly uncomfortable (and morally disgusting) Nazi concept of eugenics. It all reads smooth as silk, and that was one of my favorite parts of this book.
Pretty much all of this book is perfect – the plot, the personal character journey arcs, the action, the set-up worldbuilding (more on that later), the sensory imagery and language, and the characters. So I won’t be touching those areas, since there’s nothing to really nitpick about there.
Exceptions: the set-up worldbuilding. I feel that although, for a first book in a series, it was pretty strong, I still feel it could have been improved upon. How? Maybe with more of Gavin talking about the Surface, what it’s like post-war, aside from the few sentences we got when he was speaking in jail. I just feel like we got a bit cheated there as an audience, but seeing as this is indeed a first book in at least what looks to be a duology, I can forgive it, because there’s at least one more book to improve on and add to that worldbuilding.
The insta-love. Okay, it didn’t make me cringe, but Gavin’s dire proclamations of love toward the end (and since the length of time isn’t really specified of how long he’s been down there, this makes it extra hard puzzle out) still made me wrinkle my nose. While I can see why Evelyn might do this (she’s never seen a Surface Dweller before, so I can see her becoming attracted to him because of the sheer difference – or maybe lack of difference – between them), Gavin just made me shake my head. But because the rest of the book was so ridiculously strong, I gave in and just went with it. And it worked. I’m not going to argue with something that left me breathless and wanting more.
Final verdict? If you love dystopian, sci-fi, and/or romance genres, oh man is this the book for you. It’s absolutely brutal and unforgiving and I absolutely loved it. Definitely one of the best of 2012 so far. “Renegade” is out now from TorTeen/Macmillan in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance! It’s definitely worth the read.