March 21, 2014
Pawn by Aimee Carter
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I read a lot of post-apocalyptic/dystopian books--they're one of my favorite genres. That being said, they have their own set of challenges, and worldbuilding is the first and foremost. If your post-apocalyptic/dystopian scenario doesn't make sense, if there's not a good, well-thought-out explanation of why your world is the way it is, for me your book will fall flat on its face. Period.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what this book does.
This book opens with the protagonist, Kitty Doe, despondent because she has failed the test given to everyone on their seventeenth birthday--her one and only shot to live a good life. (She fails because she is dyslexic, which is an interesting facet of her character. Just about the only one, sadly.) Supposedly, you take the test and you're given the job and salary you "deserve." However, if for some reason you don't or can't do well, you are stuck in a numbered caste (tattooed on the back of your neck) for the rest of your life.
That right there strains credulity. This book is set in America, where the pernicious "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" idea is so ingrained in our collective psyche it doesn't seem as if we will ever get rid of it. What this story basically does is set up the country to be governed by one ruling family (and a nastier set of scheming, batshit crazy psychos I have rarely seen), and everybody else just submits to them, because of this "testing" idea.(There is a rebellion, we find out as the story goes on, fomented and led by one of the family members Kitty is forced to impersonate, because her eyes are the same color as this supposed dead girl [only she isn't really dead]. There's also some dubious plastic surgery and implied genetic engineering, to make Kitty a [pardon the pun] dead ringer for Lila.)
Sorry, but since this country was founded on breaking away from a batshit crazy ruling family, I don't think such a society would ever, ever work. Not in America.
I also don't like Kitty's passiveness. Sure, a lot of that is the basic situation--she has no control and is at the ruling family's mercy. This goes on until about two-thirds of the way through the book, when she finally begins to shake free from her chains, but she is pretty much manipulated and blackmailed throughout. In the end, she does make a choice (to continue her charade as Lila, ironically), but that felt like some weak character sauce, to say the least. It certainly didn't endear me enough to her to continue her story when the second book comes out.
This book is just blah. The characters are not exciting--Kitty's boyfriend Benjy is pretty useless--the world is not well constructed, and the plot is not memorable. It also continues a trend I'm disliking more and more in YA--one-word titles. Sorry, one word just doesn't cut it sometimes. In this case, my one word is: Goodbye.
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