Synopsis: Teen girl in a vaguely post-apocalyptic society rebels against authority, gets a boyfriend, and saves the day.
Book Review: Let’s start with the good stuff. Roth is extremely good at making us sympathize with the protagonist, and despise the antagonist. I personally wanted to murder the hell out of Peter, and I would’ve loved to Ender him to death in self-righteous self-defense. Motherfucker has it coming, and totally deserves it. The portrayal of a broken system that leaves everyone as victims with no good choices is excellent. And whenever Roth sticks with things she knows about, her physical action is very strong and very sensory. Her prose is solid.
Unfortunately she moves further and further from her strengths as the story progresses. She repeatedly displays a complete lack of knowledge of both guns and computers that really kicks you out of the story. She abandons the antagonists she spent the first 2/3rds of the book getting us to hate and drops in a generic evil-genius-villain that we don’t care about at the end. Her world building is bad – she desperately needs to give us some hint as to what happened to 90% of humanity, what happened to the state and federal governments of the USA, and some explanation of how people are continuing to live basically a modern middle-class lifestyle without those things. Even a few lines would have been nice. And as good as her characterization is, her plotting is atrocious. She has friends/family of the protagonist run into gunfire unnecessarily – basically committing suicide – for no reason at all except that it’s their turn to die in order to motivate the protag. It’s like they know they’re in a novel and they need to do this to force the story into the course the author wanted it to go. This gets so absurd that in places where I was supposed to be feeling sad all I could feel was /facepalm. I wanted to hurl the book across the room. It was disappointing after such a strong start to the novel. Not Recommended.
Book Club Review: There isn’t much to talk about, because Roth gives us so little to work with. We had to resort to flipping to the “book club discussion” questions in the back, most of which were atrociously bad. Some of them made you say “Why yes, I do wish the author would have thought to ask that question when she was writing the book, perhaps that would have made it better.” While this isn’t the worst book we’ve read (by far!), it was one of the most disappointing, since you can see the potential. You end up reading the whole thing, hoping it’ll start shining again, rather than just skimming or quitting. And it never does. Not Recommended.