Well, that was unexpected. I’ve got very mixed feelings about this book. But, I need to start out by saying that I think this was probably one of the most violent young adult books I’ve ever read. Dystopia and post-apocalyptic books look like child’s play compared to this.
There were a lot of characters that you needed to keep straight, as they were all pretty much main characters. The story would jump from one to another in a way that seemed to make no sense at first, but eventually I was able to straighten it all out. The nice thing was that the characters were honest and true-to-life. They weren’t particularly likeable, and Wasserman definitely didn’t gloss over their short-comings, but they grew on me a little because of that. I didn’t really connect with them, but I was curious how they would get through this bizarre situation they found themselves in. That could have a little bit to do with the way the story was told, which didn’t work for me.
The story was told by an omniscient narrator who was able to tell what each character was feeling and thinking at any given time. I think it would have fared better for me if it had been written in alternating views, so I could have gotten to know each character rather than be told how they felt and what they thought.
Besides the lack of connection with the characters, the way it was written made it feel very long-winded and rambling, too. Wasserman used a lot of big, obscure words (yes, I know how that sounds, and generally I like big words but it was too much, and they would distract from the story) and it seemed that at times they were just strung together to make run-on sentences. It felt a little bit pretentious, to me – just too much prose for the type of story that it was.
In the end, though, it had lots of action and mystery, which was entertaining and kept me interested, despite the fact that the writing style kept putting me to sleep. I was constantly wondering what made the whole town go crazy, and then once that was answered, how were they going to get out of this predicament? It’s very dark themes made me question exactly what would we really be like if we stripped away our consciences and had no qualms of acting out our darkest desires? At times I was shocked at what just happened, since it’s not something I see in many young adult books, and surprised at how quickly these kids became desensitized to their surroundings.
It wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste, with just paragraphs in some cases to put everything away in tidy little packages. At the end I still had some unanswered questions scratching away in the back of my mind – like why did the voices that the main characters were hearing suddenly disappear?
My final verdict is this: if you can get past the writing style, or think that it would work in this type of setting, then give it a go. It was, at the very least, something different from the norm and the story itself was captivating. It won’t be for everyone, and it definitely has it’s flaws, but it was still a decent read.