Maybe years of reading young adult books, including plenty of dystopian fiction (always trilogies, because nothing is ever allowed to just be one damn book in YA world), has made me unfairly picky about what I consider good young adult dystopian fiction. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for this particular story. But I spent the entire time reading this book being unsure what I really thought of it, and by the end could only conclude that this meant it was just mediocre. Which is too bad, because it has lots of great reviews that got me excited for it, and has an interesting idea at its base, but this one just didn’t do it for me.
Long story short: unspecified epidemics, but mostly flu varieties, have made waste of the world the book is set in. Except for extremist groups and bands of criminals, most people live in airtight communities that are regimented. There’s a lot of the usual YA dystopian fare: mysterious leaders who have way too much power, strictly enforced/restricted reproduction, sinister explanations and things going on in the background of the community, rebellious teenagers discovering these sinister things, and rebels. And of course it has the requisite love triangle, at least briefly. The world-building is great in the opening chapters, but falls apart as soon as the central characters decide to escape together. From then on, the book plays fast and loose with my suspension of disbelief about time passing, the ability of three teenagers to survive on their own in extreme conditions, and human behavior in general.
I was also really uncertain about what point the novel was trying to make about reproductive restrictions: was this a forced-birth narrative under the guise of “choice”? Was it a pro-choice narrative that was clumsy with its delivery? What was up with the weird religious stuff inserted way too often? It should be this hard to tell what point a novel is trying to make: it’s not that I want the message spelled out constantly or too forcefully, but I want to be able to tell what the message actually is.
Those just looking for a fun YA adventure read will probably enjoy this, but I just don’t have the energy to invest in yet another trilogy that’s not strongly written. I’ll pass on the rest of these.