Review: Gated by Amy Christine Parker

GatedTitle: Gated

Author: Amy Christine Parker

Genre: YA Contemporary, Cults, Thriller

Publication Date: August 6, 2013 (Random House BFYR)

Source: ARC found in a used bookstore

Synopsis: Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.

Will is her Intended.

The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound’s underground fortress–the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she’d rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.

4/5 stars – Very slow start, but you won’t be able to read the second half quickly enough

Ask me how many documentaries I’ve seen about the Manson Family, Peoples Temple, Heaven’s Gate, and various other religious movements people argue may or may not be a cult (Scientology is one such example) and you are unlikely to get an answer. There may not be a number large enough. Cults are one of my favorite fascinations and in her debut novel, Parker paints her fictional cult with vivid colors and creates characters whose mindsets are all too realistic for people who have spent years in such a place.

The first half is almost unbearably slow. We get the feel of life in the Community, find out how Lyla and her family got there, and see how their prophet Pioneer exerts his control over the people. Capturing the charisma of a cult leader is no easy task, but Parker manages to capture it and make him feel like his own entity, not just a clone of more famous cult leaders. Despite this first half being so important so we understand where these characters are mentally, it’s difficult to care much when so little is happening and Lyla is so meek.

Then about halfway through the novel, Lyla gets hit by a car and the pre-chapter quotes change from Pioneer’s sayings to quotes from men like Charles Manson and Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones. That one event and that one change signal a major shift in the novel that takes us into thriller territory.

Suddenly, it’s impossible to put down Gated or read quickly enough to be satisfied. The hooks have you and no matter what you do, you won’t be able to get them out until the book is over and you find yourself in awe of this strange novel and its heroine Lyla, who shakes off her meekness once she discovers Pioneer’s past and what he plans to do to everyone in the Community. Even when everyone–even her own parents!–think she’s lying, she’s willing to put her life on the line for them and though a crush on an outsider boy contributes to her change, she’s largely motivated by herself. The abrupt switch in tone could sink a weaker novel, but it works out here and creates one of the most exicting climactic sequences I’ve come across in a novel in a long time.

There’s so much more I feel I need to say, but words are hard to find when it comes to Gated because it’s just that good. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more news on Parker because she knows her stuff. She can write convincing thrills and chills and there’s never enough of that to satisfy my picky tastes. Fellow cult obsessees need to get their hands on this as soon as possible. It may start out slow, but their patience will be worth it in the end!


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