A thought-provoking and exciting start to a riveting new dystopian trilogy for fans of The Hunger Games.
As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.
The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(Source: I borrowed a copy of this book.)
Alenna has been an orphan since the age of 10, when her parents were taken away by the government for being political dissidents. Now, at the age of 16, Alenna must go through a test, (The Government Personality Profile Test) where dye is injected into her veins and a brain scan performed to check if she has antisocial tendencies.
Alenna knows that she will pass the test; she has no problems with the government, and has no desire to be shipped off and dumped on Prison Island Alpha, with all the other ‘Unanchored Souls’, especially given that life expectancy on the island is age 18. So imagine her surprise when she finds herself waking up on Prison Island Alpha, and being attacked by boys dressed in robes!
Rescued by a girl named Gadya, Alenna finds herself in a small village in the ‘blue sector’ of ‘the wheel’ (what the kids on the island call the island). The village is under attack from kids from the other sectors though, a tribe of kids in robes who worship ‘the monk’, a religious figure who brain washes kids to follow him and do his bidding.
The kids in the village have a plan though – to make it to the ‘grey’ sector, where they believe the aircraft that bring kids to the island land. The journey isn’t easy though, especially when Alenna finds that they will have to journey through the monk’s territory to get there. What exactly is happening on the island though? Who is the monk? What goes on in the grey sector? And what happens to the kids who are hauled away by the ‘feelers’?
I did enjoy this book, but I also found it a struggle to get through, at times I was captivated, but a lot of the time I felt like I was wading through quick sand just trying to get through it.
Alenna was an okay character, but she was very ordinary. I can see why this book is compared to ‘the hunger games’ – there’s a bunch of kids living on an island, more or less in a forest. They can’t get out, and there are gangs of teens out there trying to kill them. Alenna is no Katniss though. Alenna has no idea who to survive in the wild, she has no training like Katniss had, and she is definitely not kick-ass, although she is trying to learn. Gadya (gay-dee-ya) is much more like Katniss, but she has a mouth on her too. I liked Gadya, but sometimes wished that she wasn’t quite as mouthy and forward as she was.
The romance angle to the story was very brief, and although the love interest – Liam, did seem pretty yummy, there wasn’t much in the way of romance or even interaction between the two, I can only assume that this was meant to be a bit of a side plot, and I’m interested to see if anything more will be made of this in the next book. Unfortunately there was the obligatory love triangle, as Liam was Gadya’s ex-boyfriend, and she still had feelings for him.
The storyline was interesting. I guessed the identity of the monk pretty early on, and my prediction was found to be true around page 271 I think. I don’t know why I guessed at who I guessed at; I had two possibilities in mind and one of them was correct. I didn’t expect the events which happened once they got to the city in the grey zone - very strange and puzzling, although these were explained by the end.
Overall; an interesting dystopian, and I will be interested to read the next in the series.
8 out of 10.