Vestal Blanca is a beautiful, 18-year-old orphan who has been raised and educated digitally pure at the Tabula Rasa School, which was founded after the great Brain Cancer Epidemic, caused by cellphones, wreaked havoc on the tech-addicted populace.
Upon graduating, Vestals are “harvested”—purchased via auction—by corporations to be shills, or they enter into contracts with private individuals as Geishas. The white teen is purchased by Calum McNeal, a private individual who has selfish motives for wanting her—just not the ones everyone imagines. Cal and his son soon realize just how deeply Vestal training is embedded in Blanca and how harmful it is. As Blanca tries to prove that she is an exemplary Vestal, her life starts to unravel in a way that shows her that maybe thinking for herself is the only true solution. The story struggles to fulfill its high-concept premise. Character motivations often feel arbitrary, morphing to suit the plot. In particular, justifications for Blanca’s actions or inaction in some scenes contradict the mantras and life philosophies that she claims to live by and that drive her actions in others. Vestals lack agency and autonomy, and the sexual undercurrent suggested in the Geisha route that Blanca is forced to take is both creepy and insufficiently interrogated, at least in this series introduction. The romance elements fall short with an insta-love that is simply not believable.
Inadequate worldbuilding and uneven characterization make for a read that's as blank as its protagonist. (Dystopian romance. 14-18)