"You must become so free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." -Albert Camus
2 disappointing stars.
(This review contains MANY spoilers, beware).
I present you with the 5 disappointing flaws that kept this book from reaching its full potential:
1. Editing. Unfortunately, as I was reading this book, there were many grammatical errors that I had to sift through. This ended up making the book less enjoyable than it could have been had I not been worrying about whether or not I read a sentence correctly.
2. Editing, part II. There were not only grammatical errors, there were also content errors. The first was that Benna, our Helper12, claims she has never told anyone her name except for Kris and there was a big to-do about how the only person who ever knew her real name was left at the complexes while she was being carted to God-knows-where... except later in the book, we find someone else knows her name and knew her name before Kris: Motie. There was never an explanation for why Benna just forgot to mention the other girl. It was a huge editing error. The second was minor. When Ms. Sloane buys Benna, she says that Benna will be wearing a uniform. When Benna gets to the Sloane estate, there is a big deal over how she's not wearing a uniform. I found this confusing.
3. Ms. Sloane. This might be nit-picky, but why is she a MS.? She should be a MRS. She is married and the book refers to her husband multiple times - this warrants a Mrs. in front of her name. If they insist on using Ms. then there should have been an explanation as to why because I kept questioning whether or not she was truly married.
4. Lack of Depth. Seriously, there was some pretty heavy stuff in this book. I felt that the character reactions were very under played and less dramatic than they should have been. For example, Thomas and Benna can't be together because of their social status and the emotions barely scraped the surface for something as heartwrenching as that. Especially when the characters supposedly love each other. To me, this warrants an almost philosophical take on society, but it all felt really surface level.
I also had a huge problem with Benna's reaction to finding out that people aren't marked according to their capabilities but to what the government needs. Her whole life revolved around being a Baby Helper because she thought that was what she was good at. And then she finds out that she never had an inclination to something like that at all. It was all pre-planned by the government because they needed Baby Helpers. Something like this deserves some kind of, "Then who am I really?" scenario but it's mentioned briefly and then the author never returns to it. This is really the climax of the scene, but it feels like nothing happened.
5. Length. I feel like a lot of the above could have been avoided if Blaine had made his story longer. Had there been more character development (and not so rashly!) and more emotion in the pages, that surely would have added at least 100 to 150 more pages. This book was way too short for all that Blaine tried to squeeze in there. I would have loved for some more reactions from the characters.
This book had such a great potential. I was fascinated with Blaine's dystopian world where people were marked at birth what they would be for life. I especially loved the idea that in the complexes, where those lowly workers lived (like our hero: Helper12) the TV was constantly running. Who could think with all of that noise? Who could think of anything? - which is exactly what a tyrant government would want with their people. Blaine's details were so clever and spot-on, but the main plot sort of waxed and waned.
There was a lot of good in this book as well. Blaine's details, like I mentioned above, were fantastic and I loved his clever ideas. I also thought his imagery was beautiful, especially for Benna. This may sound weird, but I could see her perfectly -- down to her nails! -- and I really wanted to like the book, too. Personally, this felt like a rough draft to me. If re-written with more action and emotion, I would actually be interested in trying it again.