When I read the description of this book on Good Reads about a month ago, I thought it sounded like a good story with an interesting concept behind it. Just so you can get a feel of why I thought this, here’s one of the descriptions from Good Reads:
“Anna Covey is a ‘Surplus’. She should not have been born. In a society in which ageing is no longer feared, and death is no longer an inevitability, children are an abomination. Like all Surpluses, Anna is living in a Surplus Hall and learning how to make amends for the selfish act her parents committed in having her. She is quietly accepting of her fate until, one day, a new inmate arrives. Anna’s life is thrown into chaos. But is she brave enough to believe this mysterious boy? A tense and utterly compelling story about a society behind a wall, and the way in which two young people seize the chance to break free”
Now to me, this sounded like it would be good. A girl living in a dystopian society, not realising that she’s actually the victim; a boy who shows up to be the budding hero, to tell her the truth about everything she’s ever known and to convince her to escape. What also took my fancy was the idea of a drug that would make you live forever. I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian novels recently, but not one with this sort of concept. It intrigued me, I’m not gonna lie.
But by golly, what a disappointment! It’s rare that I read the back of a book (or a description on Good Reads) which I like, and then end up not liking the actual story. But this was one of them. We meet Anna on the first page as she is writing in her diary, which she keeps hidden in the girls’ bathroom because Surpluses aren’t allowed to own anything – it’s a waste. It’s the year 2140 and she is describing the school where she and the other Surpluses in the area live. This diary entry way of writing continues through the book at various points, though between them, the story is written in third person. The diary entries weren’t so bad – I didn’t mind reading those – but the sections between them were very descriptive and lacked conversation between characters. I’m all for description, don’t get me wrong, but there’s only so much I can handle. Speaking of third person, there were times in the story that it changed from Anna’s perspective to that of another character – often one of the teachers – and it was sometimes hard to see when the change was made. I had to pay attention even more to know whose head I was in at that moment.
Another thing that I didn’t enjoy was how long it took for anything to happen. Sure, Peter, the boy-hero of the story, arrives in the first few chapters, but other than, nothing really happens until right at the end. I know what you’re thinking, “Anjali, that’s how a climax in a story works...”. And I realise that, I do, but this was flat the entire time and then sort of shot up and then phased off into an ‘Oh...it’s finished’ sort of ending.
I feel like I may be being too hard on it. It did have some good things, like the general idea behind it, and a few twists and turns in it, but overall I feel it lacked depth and I couldn’t really relate to any of the characters or even really like them. I wouldn’t care if the main character was killed off or something. You know what I mean?
As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been thinking about why I didn’t like it, and perhaps it’s just because (I have a feeling) it’s aimed at a younger audience. Anna is nearly 15, Peter is 15 or 16, and a lot of the characters (minus the adults of course) are younger still. But having said that, there are heaps of books that are aimed at a younger audience that I have really loved. So now I don’t really know what to think.
I gave it a two stars for two reasons: 1) I sort of go with the Good Reads way of star ratings in that one star means ‘I didn’t like it’, two stars is ‘It was okay’; 2) because the idea behind the story – a drug that makes you live forever and families having to Opt Out if they didn’t only want to have one kid – was a cool idea and it had potential.
Have you read it? What did you think?
This post was written by guest reviewer Anjali.
Image courtesy of goodreads.com