**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**
The year is 2113. In Jenna Strong's world, ACID—the most brutal controlling police force in history—rule supreme. No throwaway comment or whispered dissent goes unnoticed—or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a horrendous crime she struggles to remember. But Jenna's violent prison time has taught her how to survive by any means necessary.
When a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed, and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID, and try to uncover the truth about what really happened on that terrible night two years ago. They have taken her life, her freedom, and her true memories away from her. How can she reclaim anything when she doesn't know who to trust?
Strong, gritty writing, irresistible psychological suspense, and action consume the novel as Jenna struggles to survive against the all-controlling ACID. Seriously sinister stuff. (source:goodreads)
Cover- This cover. This cover is the reason I dropped everything, clicked on the link from my Barnes and Noble online shopping cart, and then proceeded to order it. It's fierce (look at that red and black color scheme) and the girl on the cover isn't dressed in some fancy dress, but instead looks totally bad-ass wearing exactly the kind of thing I expect all government-rebels to wear.
I can't find anything wrong with this. I still get chills just looking at it.
Narrative- Mostly first person POV from Jenna's perspective. Her voice is strong and very no-nonsense, which I love in a character. She knows what she wants and she also knows how to get it, and it shows with the writing style in which we're right inside Jenna's head. Equal parts emotion and action, and in many points you can tell where emotion is driving the action.
What struck me as cool was the way the novel shifted slightly into that of an epistolary. Most of the novel is in Jenna's POV, yes, but we also get little things such as ACID newsletters, communication records between ACID agents, and letters. There's also a pretty cool page where we get a picture of graffiti art that has a place within the novel.
I'm not going to lie, I thought this was a very cool way of sneaking in little things, such as the way the world was viewing Jenna, without info-dumping it within the narration, itself. It was also a cool way to give the reader information before Jenna got it, which, in a first person novel, is a bit hard to do.
Plot- I need to start with a reference: this book is a modern-day 1984 on steroids. Considering I'm a fan of Orwell's book, this aspect was super interesting for me, and once I made the connection it made me even more interested in Jenna's story.
There was always something happening outside of Jenna's control (well, for the most part), which provided an interesting angle for the book. In a society like this, there's literally eyes everywhere: your own family would give you up to ACID if they feel like you're breaking the rules. This means that when Jenna's "LifePartner" just ups and leaves, she's in trouble, because her own landlord would give her away for not being in his company.
Being a fugitive on the run also adds desperation, and when people are desperate anything can happen. There was action, blackmail, and then the big WHAT THE [insert expletive here] when Jenna literally becomes another person. Like, how does that even happen?
Considering I'm a big fan of themes that revolve identity and memories, I was hooked. This book was fantastic.
Two downers, though (sorry, had to happen). It's my opinion that if you introduce a character and they not only get a name but a part in helping to hide a fugitive, they should have something to do with the plot. They should at least get a back story. I want to know why they're there, how they got caught up in the mass, and most importantly: how is it possible for them to leave their LifePartner and not get in trouble, while Jenna's the one who stayed and suddenly she's in deep for somebody else's actions? Even something as simple as being informed that her "LifePartner" was detained and given jail time. Even something as simple as that.
Instead this character got a little bit of screen time, and then disappeared. We never hear from him again, and we never know why, exactly, he was being helped by the rebellion in the first place. He was a ghost, and that really put me off in terms of a rounded plot.
Another aspect of the rounded plot: I loved that there were terrorists in here. Like, people who want to bomb and try to kill a few hundred people just to "send a message." For a good chunk of time, Jenna's stuck with a group of them, and then she gets away . . . and nothing. While they served their purpose in blackmail and ensuring that Jenna's plans to evade the government went awry, I would have loved to see them again, even if it was at the end with a news clip that says: "officials are still trying to detain [insert faction here.]" Because it was said outright that this group was huge, with tons of people and factions, but after this one little bit there was absolutely nothing besides a bit of foreshadowing at the end with the leader.
I don't know; the anarchists just felt a bit cut-off and short lived, which is a shame because they were kind of interesting. I's these kinds of aspects that make the overall plot feel less rounded and more like a square with some pieces missing.
Still, I'm being generous:
Characters-Besides the guy I kind of had a rant about above, I kind of loved these characters. The main ones are Jenna and Max Fisher. Jenna is basically everything I love in a kick-ass heroine determined to overthrow the people who ruined her life: strong, tough, no-nonsense. At the same time, she'd not a complete robot, which, I can say from experience, is tough to do. Her association with Max is particularly interesting to look at, because not only is she trying to hide her real identity from him, but she feels guilty and indebted towards him due to her role in his father's death.
As for Max, I'm not sure I can pull any real judgement for the main reason that he didn't get a lot of screen-time. But I mean, once he got tangled up with Jenna he was a pretty cool guy, despite that he was sick for half the time (drugs, man. Stay out of the drugs.). When he was lucid, though, he did act very real, particularly when he learns Jenna's secret (because, you know, it's bound to happen). He hates her, because face it, who would you believe: the government who up until this point you think is safe, or the girl who supposedly killed your father in cold blood?
It's these kind of real emotions that stick out and make a character less like a cardboard cutout, and more like a real person.
Alright, so I admit to walking into this book with high expectations. This is the book that was sitting on my bookshelf for months because I didn't have time to read what with all of my school work. Every time I looked at it on the shelf, I got all giddy and yearned for it.
Did I like it? Yes. A lot. I still totally recommend this book to anybody looking for an exceptional dystopian read.
Final Answer: 4 / 5