Duffy’s (Spectral, 2015, etc.) novel sees teens combating evil in a futuristic age.
Desiree Six Haven, 16, lives in Tower, run by The Protectorate, which implants sensors in all citizens. “Six” indicates that Rae was born on the sixth day of the week, with a predetermined life span of 50 years (barring any difficulties). Her parents—Fours with a 40-year life span—are just months from mandatory termination. At bedtime, Tower’s residents enter the Dreamscape, which produces restful sleep free of nightmares associated with an era called the Manic Age. Though Desiree can’t stand the sight of blood, she is a “nurturer” in training to be a nurse and will soon be bound to her designated life mate, Asher, a former bully destined for civil service. After a power failure, Desiree’s childhood friend and protector, Darian One Sterling—who allegedly broke into a head Protectorate office and stole government files, then murdered his parents—escapes from Olympus Jail where he was to be punished for life with unending nightmares in the Terrorscape. On the run, Darian contacts Desiree. Initially resistant, she comes to trust him and question the status quo involving The Protectorate’s harshly unyielding stance, the brainwashing of citizens, and the fates of those known as the Unwanted. Though there are some intense scenes—as when “Noncompliant” neighbors Coral and Owen are strapped to stretchers in the Terrorscape—the novel shares elements with The Hunger Games: a supposedly benevolent government, manipulation and control of its citizenry, and televised punishment in an arenalike setting. Brave Darian and earnest Rae are a likable couple, and their rekindled affection takes a tenderly romantic turn as they struggle to survive and uncover the fates of “stolen” siblings (The Protectorate mandates one child per family). The story lacks the amperage and compellingly defiant heroine of The Hunger Games; instead, to move things along, it relies more on technological gadgetry (e.g., menacing fighter bots) and a budding romance. Though a sequel could be on the way, it’s unclear how and why an entire populace ceded personal freedom to avoid bad dreams when a sleeping pill would do.
Loving, imperiled teens on a quest to topple big bad government, with a few good action sequences and a somewhat familiar storyline.