As some of you know, I am doing the pop sugar challenge, one of the prompts is
Favourite prompt from the 2015-2017 challenges by popsugar
So, I chose 2015 prompt – Read a book with a bad review, so after reading the book review by my friend, Lizzie I decided this book would fit the description. And it does.
It is a dystopian book, trying to imitate popular contemporary dystopian like the Hunger Games, Divergent and Delirium…. only …. it forgets it’s supposed to be telling a story. Here is a short synopsis:
A society has lived in a tyranny for the last three generations, wearing unmovable bands that mark their obedience. Once the band marks the wearer as a poor citizen and marks them as “0”, the wearer dies.
Kaleen turns sixteen, and must get sorted to a zone that chooses her job before she is given one of these bands. Then she goes through training at HQ for three months.
A longer synopsis can be found on Goodreads.
There are several problems with this book. The writing, the character development, the plot, and the sexist point of view that is throughout this book.
At the beginning of the book, Kaleen is celebrating her sixteenth birthday with her sister and mother. Her mother is wearing a band, which reminds me of one of those house-arrest straps. There explanation of the sorting, which ok, it is the beginning of the book, you expect a bit of exposition, but… Byrne seems to think his readers have very short-term memory loss.
At the bottom of a page (iPad Kindle), Kal states that only mothers and the sortee can go to the sorting so her sister cannot go. On the next kindle page, halfway down, Kal’s sister asks if she can go to the sorting. Now Kal’s sister, Tria, has lived in this society for the whole of her life… She would know she cannot go to the sorting, but let’s pretend Tria is a dumb 10-year-old kid for the minute, her mom tells her she cannot go and explains why.
“Only parents of the kids being sorted are allowed to attend,” my mother said, trying to not make her feel as though she’d done something wrong.
Plain ‘my mother said’ would have serviced. This isn’t the only exposition though – rather than show us the world that Kal lives in, they sit in an assembly that explains to these sixteen-year-olds (who, you know, have lived in this world since they were born) how the society and the government work which means that the readers end up sitting in the assembly too.
Then Kal makes a friend, Ivan, who was sorted into the Astute zone (basically Ravenclaw and Erudite). He has no arc at all, in fact, his sole task is to explain everything. Literally! They are in history class and Ivan goes into full detail about stuff. He also manages to easily solve any mystery that presents itself to the character the next chapter, whether that is analysing a tracking device or extracting information from a CD that is old and outdated technology. At least it took Hermione half the book or nearly killing herself to solve a mystery!
The exposition is so bad that the foreshadowing stands out a mile.
“My name is Justine. I guess we’re roommates,” she said, a very faint accent coming out as she spoke.
First of all, the characters have never left the zone they were born in and so would not be familiar with what accent belongs to what zone, and secondly, it’s not that subtle that this character is up to something if she is the only one with an accent… I mean, seriously, it shouldn’t have taken them half the book to discover her.
However, Logan does try and add visuals … of how a shower stops when you turn it off, because not everyone knows it drips for a while afterwards, right?
Everyone but the guards, the president and the warden at HQ are sixteen-year-olds, yet apart from when Kal loses her point on her band for disobeying a teacher, the kids all sound like they are in their 30s. They all have wise things to say, and yes you can get mature sixteen-year-olds but not every character that has a talking part.
You’re her baby boy, and I know she stays awake at night thinking about you and how you’re doing. Leaving her again will be hard, I’m sure of it, but isn’t it better to go and see her once than to never see her again?”
No sixteen year old would describe another sixteen-year-old as someone’s baby boy. Gavin then thanks Kaleen by saying:
Thank you for consoling me today. It means a lot. You’re a great girl.
Ssixteen-year-olds just don’t speak like this. it’s more an awkward thanks like “Hey, thanks, for you know, earlier.”
Not only this, but they are at HQ for three months and this first book (Yep – it’s the dystopian trilogy thing) takes place in the first three weeks of the three months that they are there. Kal is there for two weeks when Hector/Jericho says to an angry Kal:
This isn’t you,
It has been two weeks, how does he know how she acts when she is angry?
The world building
There is no world building in this book at all, we do not see what the world looks like outside the HQ and Kaleen’s house. The only attempt at the world building is the explanation in the history class that tells you about the failed revolution and how other countries followed the system once they saw that it worked for Manhatten, New York.
We are told about the six zones, each zone has a number, a colour and ‘traits’:
- Stalwart – symbolised by red, are the zone that would be Gryffindor or Dauntless – they are the ones that become the bodyguards or work in the army.
- Astute is represented by blue and are the Ravenclaw or erudite zones, taking the scientists and teaching jobs. (noticing a pattern?)
- Collusive – (green) they are the leaders, the politicians and business owners, so basically, Slytherin.
- Radiant – they are the yellow zone, beautiful entertainers and modules. Nothing relating to loyalty so it has finally broken the Harry Potter scheme! Yay! … but wait, are there no Hufflepuff?
- Quixotic – they are purple, they are the labourers and factory owners. This is the original zone that Kaleen comes from.
- Altruistic – they are represented by white and are the doctors and nurses (The zone Kaleen ends up in even though the ‘sorting’ said she had theQuixotic dreamy nature… hmmm.
The problem here is a tyranny government would make Collusive the first zone. Doctors and Nurses would rank around two or three, and Radiant (which I assume include artists) would be at the bottom because art is freedom of speech and that’s bad! It’s the caste system all over again!
And how are they sorted? by how they look and their psychology. All stalwarts are naturally bulky, and all radiants are ‘beautiful’. Quixotic are dreamy and Astutes love books.
Aside from this, there is no world building at all.
I mean, they are sorted into their zones but we learn absolutely nothing about any of the zones except what kinds of jobs they end up getting! They go to class to learn to fight, but not to learn about their new zones?
And why would a tyranny government give the oppressed citizens weapons and fighting power? That’s asking to be overthrown! At least with Matched the citizens had to take the matrix like pills if something like a revolution looked like it was going to happen. Honestly, I have no idea how this dicatorship works.
This story has a romance, a spy and a tournament but everything is coincidental.
When Kal and the others arrive at HQ, they are assigned roommates and after the first week, it is announced that there is a spy somewhere with dark hair, a foreign accent, a female and in one of three zones: Altruistic, Stalwart and Astute.
Remember the roommate?
My name is Justine. I guess we’re roommates,” she said, a very faint accent coming out as she spoke.
So… how does this spy get caught? Well, Kaleen gets drugged and dreams about her father’s disappearance but her test was inconclusive. She is questioned about the inconclusive test, her family is threatened and she goes to bed angry and forgets her bag in the morning so has to return to her room and retrieve it. Justine is snooping in her drawers as Kaleen walks in. Then a group of guards walks in and arrests her. That’s it. Around 10% of the book since the spy was announced, which isn’t that many pages.
So, the next bit of the plot, because the book can’t have more than one plot at a time, is the tournament. A tyranny society is being taught to fight, and the winner gets to go home and see their family. You’d think this would tear the kids apart, right? Nope, all the kids are civil, in fact, most of them don’t want to go home, eliminating half the competition. These include Kal’s friends – who happen to be all male.
Gavin, Kaleen’s first friend at HQ, is the romantic interest, but there is no conflict at all. The only issue is that he (and all the other guys) don’t want to hit any of the girls in the spar … It’d be like doing a martial art and a kid deciding not to spar with the female girl, it’s controlled, no one gets injured.
He shows no emotion, the only hint that he is the romantic interest, besides every character saying he is – oh yes, he gives his tournament prize to her. But flirting? Doesn’t exist.
Character Development and Sexism
There is no character development. At all. Kaleen just asks questions and then answers them on the next page. Ivan just investigates anything that she asks, I have no idea what Hector/Jericho does besides being the Jacob guy of the group and Gavin is the one that is her BFF romantic love interest.
Nothing changes, there is no fight, no conflict except with the warden, but there are plenty of sexist comments.
There is a scene where Kaleen almost beats the Radiant kid in the war room – this kid is unbeatable, which is stupid because he is radiant and so it should have been one of the stalwart kids, but when Kaleen fights him, she is moments away from winning until she gets distracted. Since then, sexist comments are made.
I’m just a girl, and not a very strong one at that.
I saw her against Trace, and no offense, but you’re weak,
I mean, a girl named Jasmin has been at the HQ longer than Kaleen and her friends, is classed as the best fighter at the HQ and none of the guys wants to fight her because she is a girl!
He didn’t want to strike her, thinking she was fragile, but she went in on him and whacked him a good many times as he tried to block them.
What is the point of having a strong female no one will fight! I mean, Jericho picks up Jasmine, the strongest HQ fighter and places her off the platform rather than fights her! No, no you do not have a strong female character be picked up and placed off the platform, if she was really that strong then she would not have been able to be picked up.
No one wants to fight Kaleen either. It gets boring.
This book has received one star from me for the reasons above. I wish it was more promising, but … oh well
This semester, we are learning about responsibility as a writer, including the “Not Just” effect, the “I am not your mother” complex and political views within writing. I’ve only taken one lecture so far but I think Logan could benefit from the class – a lot.
With this, I leave you with some quotes to this tyranny society that Kaleen lives in
They said that they apprehended the girl responsible and that all was well again at HQ. I had no clue that she was your roommate! – Kal’s mother
Because not knowing what happened in your daughter’s room miles away is abnormal!
She placed the cylinder against my arm, the cool touch of the metal forming goose bumps against my skin, before I felt something quickly jab me in the arm. She pulled the cylinder away, my vision starting to get blurry…
Because I don’t want to say needle even though I am in the zone that is marked for nurses!
I had been so consumed since this happened I forgot that I was the exact profile of the person they were searching for.
Yep, I am a dark haired girl in one of the zones that the spy was sorted in and I’m gonna forget that I fit the description of the spy – that wouldn’t explain why I was drugged now would it?
How could he just take away this many points for speaking out? Was there no freedom to say what you were thinking
Hey, Trump … is there freedom of speech in a dictatorship?
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