This powerful dystopian novel begins with characters lightheartedly joking and teasing their frazzled teacher, and ends with heart-wrenching pain, tragedy, and loss. It’s a story of facing fears, navigating change, deciding alliances, making wise choices, and coping with consequences. The stakes are high and lives are on the line.
The POV narration of this story shifts from chapter to chapter: often the chapters are told from the point of view of the survivors (i.e., the under-20 kids who survived the DREAM lab), but as the group separates and new characters enter, the story evolves through the perspective of individuals.
But it works! The writing is strong and clear and there is never confusion about whose perspective we’re in. It’s fun to shift from one group to another, and there’s an organic sense of suspense as the characters and action spin tighter and tighter until the dynamic climax at the end.
Everything about this novel works—dialogue is smart, conflict is well-defined, setting is vivid, characters are unique and distinct—and the combination of elements creates a rich, emotional story. You can open this book anywhere, read a paragraph, and get instantly sucked in. Like this:
Lance made his way through the city, keeping to the alleyways when he could. Finally, he turned a corner and there it was—the Atlanta Hospital. He stood in the shadows for a few minutes, waiting and watching; trying to decide whether to keep in the alley till he got closer, or dart across the open street where there was minimal cover. Eventually, he decided to play it safe and travel through the back alleys where there were plenty of escape routes. It turned out to be a good call. As he passed through one alley, he looked out into the open space between him and the hospital and saw, not just the two who had been chasing him, but three other gang members as well—all armed and definitely dangerous.
You want to keep reading, right? That’s the sign of good writing.