Thursday, February 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Yes Virginia, You Can Have Character Focus in Dystopian Fiction

*Originally posted on cj's bookshelf on June 24, 2011*

Title: The Roar
Author: Emma Clayton
Publisher: The Chicken House
Publication Date: April 1, 2009
Reading Level: Age 12 and up

Synopsis: (from Goodreads) - 
Mika and Ellie live in a future behind a wall: Solid concrete topped with high-voltage razor wire and guarded by a battalion of Ghengis Borgs, it was built to keep out the animals, because animals carry the plague. At least that's what Ellie, who was kidnapped as a child, has always been taught.

But when she comes to suspect the truth behind her captivity, she's ready to risk exposure to the elements and answer the call of the wild. Listen. Can you hear it? She's strapping on her headset, jumpstarting her Pod Fighter, and--with her capuchin monkey at her back--she's breaking out!

My Review: 
I have long since learned not to trust book summaries.  Either they will make a good story sound boring or an awful story sound intriguing.  Such is the case with "The Roar" - I would not have picked this one up had my supervisor not suggested it.

Also - speaking of unreliable summaries - this book is not about Ellie.  It's about her twin brother, Mika, who refuses to believe that Ellie is dead even though his parents, teachers and counselors tell him she is.  But Ellie comes up enough that this is not a deal-breaker for me.

(Suggestion to publishers - WRITE BETTER SUMMARIES!)

The world Emma Clayton has created for her characters is both fascinating and terrifying.  It is a world where everyone has to take what the government says at face value because there simply isn't any other source.  They are told that they must stay behind The Wall surrounding the country because of a devastating Animal Plague that nearly wiped out all of humanity.  The poor people are packed into tiny fold-out apartments and are given glorified mold to eat.  The children are given "Fit Mix," which they are told will give them the necessary nutrition, but it actually turns out to be something more sinister.  Mika's the only one who questions anything this government tells him, to his detriment, but he also succeeds at the beating the government at its own game (and I'm not talking about the arcade game that gets the whole plot in motion).  The moment when Mika discovers the government's BIG SECRET is so satisfying that I didn't care that I had pretty much called it at the start of the book.

This is one book I actually don't want to spoil too much, though it isn't hard to guess where it's going to end up. That doesn't necessarily make it an inferior story.  Far from it, actually.  "The Roar" is a fast-paced, in-the-moment, intriguing and enjoyable read.  The main thing about this was that it was so focused on the characters and how they responded to their situation and didn't focus so much on the situation came to be (which is how dystopian fiction ought to be - I'm lookin' at you "Uglies").

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