Lisa M. Stasse
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
[July 10, 2012]
A thought-provoking and exciting start to a riveting new dystopian trilogy.
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.
So, let's boil down this synopsis. The government picks kids based on something "wrong" with their brain, drops them on an island, and assumes either they'll all kill each other or the island will kill them within two years. Land is staked out, alliances are formed, death everywhere.
Does this basic breakdown sound familiar?
If you've been reminded of any book in The Hunger Game trilogy, good. Because while this book is not the same, the basic premise and the overall feel of the book is very similar.
Alenna genuinely believe she's nothing special. Even towards the end of the book, she mentions that she never thought she'd make it to the position she was in, that it would be one of the other kids on The Wheel. But she still learns to take care of herself. She finds her own personal purpose that keeps her going. Despite all this...she still didn't have much of a personality. I guess she grows into herself as a person instead of just another member of the crowd, but not really. There just wasn't much to her beyond her goals and her fighting.
The story itself was fantastic. While there could be some improvements, the world was really well built and explained. Even the politics of The Wheel were fascinating and delicate. There were definitely some things I did not see coming and there were a few things that seemed obvious or likely. But the story was definitely a good blend of dystopian aspects.
The romance...I dunno. It seemed like it was there because it felt like there needed to be a romance or some extra drama or something? There wasn't a lot of chemistry between Alenna and the love interest and I actually thought she might end up with a couple different guys where there was just...more. But Actual Love Interest and Alenna had a pretty serious case of insta-love that was later waved off with a half-ass explanation. I think this would've been a better, stronger book if there wasn't a romance or if it was with one of the other options.
Overall, this was a pretty fantastic book. Definitely some things that could've been improved, but after the awesome ending, I'm really hopeful for book 2.