The rise of a totalitarian government derails a young woman’s future in this dystopian novel.
This action-packed drama gradually reveals how capable, smart, but apolitical Samantha “Sam” Smart ends up a dramatic symbol of resistance against newly elected President King, whose Guard Elite round up and force into submission those who dissent. As the novel opens, Sam has been captured and is being held prisoner by King’s regime. Alternating chapters juxtapose harrowing scenes in which she is tortured by her captors with flashbacks in which she is starting college, where she excels at soccer, forms a strong friendship with her teammate Kayla, and unexpectedly falls for Brady, who at first she thinks is not at all her type. The looming fascist threat is something Sam, a serious student on scholarship, would like to ignore—until tragic events force her to confront it. The novel is set in an unspecified time and mixes recognizable real-world elements such as references to Che Guevara with imagined ones, such as a hybrid internet/television service called the Medianet. Well-paced plotting will keep readers engaged despite some characters whose development seems a bit thin. Sam’s compelling and difficult family history makes her a sympathetic narrator, and the transformation she undergoes is believable. Sam and Brady are white, Kayla is black and gay.
A troubling, gripping read. (Dystopian thriller. 14-18)