Upcoming movies always intrigue me in the books they’re based on, yet this one has been on my TBR for ages now. And it did not disappoint.
A dystopian America where kids under the age of eighteen somehow receive enhanced abilities one day while the other kids die suddenly. After that day the youth are persecuted due to the sheer terror they cause the adults. Camps (basically concentration/ work camps) are established to ‘rehabilitate’ the children. Whether their parents want them to be or not every child is taken. Including the main character Ruby. Taken on the morning of her tenth birthday, in nothing more than pyjamas, and spends the next six years at a camp. A group opposing the camps rescues Ruby and she is finally free. Well, as free as you can be in a world where your entire generation is hunted. Just after her escape she meets three fellow kids; Chubs, Suzume and Liam.
First things first, Suzume, or Zu, is by far the cutest character. Probably ever. Though mute, her sweetness and truly kind heart are evident in every move she makes. She instantly takes Ruby into her heart as her big sister and is the driving force that allows Ruby to join the intrepid trio. Zu is kind without a thought, something’s that strongly missing from our world let alone their dystopian nightmare. My favourite is when she sneaks a beautiful red dress into Ruby’s bag and then does a happy dance when Ruby puts it on. Zu’s story had me in tears all throughout the novel, I nearly threw the book away I was so upset. She’s truly a child too innocent for this world. Plus, her constantly wearing large rubber gloves is adorable.
Ruby’s power made her different from all the others, making her lonely despite being surrounded by hundreds of other kids. It was an interesting source of conflict for the character and added to the intrigue with her development, not only emotionally but also with her powers. What were her limits? What could she do if she put her mind to it? From the start, the author was able to show the mental effect of living in a concentration camp and the long-time effects it can have. Throughout the entire novel Ruby struggled with communicating with her peers, especially the boys. It added another depth to Ruby, making her a full character strong enough to lead this adventure through her world.
Chubs is the usual reserved intelligent boy, suspicious of anyone new, especially Ruby. He is mean to her at first but as he warms up to her, we get to witness the loyal friend underneath. He’s good at sowing and boy does Liam give him shit about it (which is very entertaining). Through all the challenges they go through he always makes sure his friends are safe and even tries to continue Zu’s education. He was frustrating at first but well worth it as he became my second favourite character (just behind Zu).
From the very first moment, it was clear Liam was the love interest. The connection between Ruby and Liam was tingling right from the start, despite the trouble Ruby had communicating and trusting others. He’s the nice guy who wants everyone to be equal and free. Above all else, he’ll do everything he can for what he believes is right. But boy, does this guy have a tough backstory, which makes his optimistic attitude that much more astounding.
SPOILER WARNING: It was slightly vague how far it went but there’s a scene where Ruby gets sexually assaulted. It’s not a topic I’m comfortable with but I believe the author handled it well. The way the assaulter invades Ruby’s thoughts is very accurate from what other victims have shared about their experiences. Sometimes it seems that the mental invasion can be one of the hardest things to overcome. Rape culture is a difficult subject but I’m satisfied that they reinforced the fact that it is NEVER the victim’s fault. When she tells her friends, they are horrified and enrage, but above all, their concern for their friend was touching.
The bad guys (and there were plenty) were truly bad. The adults were cruel and age-ist while the kids were just as cruel to their own peers. That’s what confounded me more than anything. You’ve been treated terribly then you go and treat your peer, someone who’s been the same troubles you have, just as bad. It’s mindboggling.
A page-turner unique amongst the thousands of YA dystopians. This will be an entertaining series to follow and I’m excited to see the movie. I give it 4/5.