I do like teen fiction. But not stereotyped teen fiction. So I was a tiny bit nervous about this as it fits into the current vogue for dystopian fiction and I was afraid it might turn out to be a bit samey.
Fortunately my fears were unfounded. Dystopian it might be, but Sara Grant’s first novel is well written, and follows in a proud tradition. It brought to mind both Nineteen Eighty-four and The Handmaid’s Tale, though wasn’t quite as depressing as either.
In fact, by the time I reached the end of the story, my only real complaint was that the cover, and the title are a little misleading. Beautiful, catchy and all the rest, but not desperately relevant to the story. And having seen a lot of teen fiction covers recently, the trend for heroines in ball dresses means that this won’t stand out, which is rather a shame.
So, what’s it about? Neva lives under the Protectosphere, a forcefield that keeps her limited world safe from the dangers outside. At the age of 16 she is suddenly adult and life changes – but she isn’t sure that she trusts the authorities, the party line, or indeed her parents any more. So where to go from here? Neva and her friends decide they have to make a difference. How much of a difference to their futures they can’t begin to imagine.
Plot without spoilers, how’s that? There’s a little romance or at least some tension, but as the main characters are 16, it would be very odd if there weren’t some hormones floating around. It doesn’t distort or feel out of place. A little violence, but again, completely in keeping with the plot. It’s written first person current tense, which is not a style I’m particularly fond of usually, but Sara Grant draws you in effortlessly and it works well.
I’m not sure I’d be too happy handing this to Big to read right now – but she is only just 12. Some of the later happenings are disconcerting and unpleasant – it depends on how your (pre)teen deals with that sort of thing. There are echoes of slave escapes and references that brought to mind communist work camps and one scene unpleasantly reminiscent of descriptions of holocaust camps (I assume on purpose!) – it’s definitely a thought provoking novel.
All in all, I highly recommend it and I will certainly be watching for this author’s next works with interest.
Disclosure: received free from publisher Orion in return for review. All views my own.