When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.
I really liked this book, I enjoyed the overall concept and I thought that it was a realistic outlook on what would actually happen, and therefore challenging the ‘moral’ high ground that Western countries usually take. The introduction of the camps and the way that the story arc was dealt with was really impressive, and I enjoyed the gradual leakage of information. However all the way through it was a mixed bag, some parts would be absolutely fantastic and others would let it down.
One thing I do want to focus on was there were points in this book where I was really confused, and some of the things that were said was contradictory. Especially when Ruby was talking about her powers, it seemed to switch from her using them and not knowing what they were. I was a little perplexed, which kind of ruined the overall effect for me.
The characters were well-developed and there’s a really nice dynamic to the relationships between the team. I would have liked a little more background information on the different members of the team, I thought that this was the one that was lacking in the dynamic. Especially as it made understanding the choices they make a little harder. I’m going to expand on the bad things in my step-by-step because it’ll contain spoilers.
Now onto my in-depth, step through the book thoughts.
When starting this book, I was thoroughly intrigued by the opening line, and I thought that it was an appropriately matter of fact, especially when you look at what happens throughout the book.
“Grace Somerfield was the first to die.”
This is definitely what this book does really well, it handles horrible things in an everyday manner. Especially as we come to the end of that chapter and it becomes clear that all of the children are feared and the way the world is suffering from the loss of these children.
The imagery of the children on the bus was really powerful, the thought that all of those children were packed in and had their hands tied behind their backs. It becomes apparent that the country doesn’t seem to recognise them as children anymore, more like cattle.
“Later, the windows of the bright yellow buses they used to bring kids in would be smeared with black paint. They just hadn’t thought of it yet”
It all defies the image of a school bus, something that brings children to a place where they will be cared for and looked after, and this is before they have physically changed the appearance.
Although all of this was a brilliant start to the book, the next few little bits was more of a challenge to read, I found it to be extremely confusing. On one hand you have Ruby telling the reader that she has no idea about her powers but then is quite adept at using them against the people categorising her. I had to read this passage quite a few times just to understand what was happening.
“Ruby,” I whispered. It was the last word I spoke for nearly a year.
I was really enjoying the dynamic between Ruby and Sam but I was more than confused with what happened between them and why that would result in her not speaking for almost a year. It was odd rather than anything emotional.
We then move forward to the point in which the CC is tested and Ruby realises that she might not be the only one who got around the classification system, and this part really annoyed me.
“I couldn’t have been the only one to figure out how to dodge the sorting system – who to influence, when to lie.”
If we give her the benefit of the doubt before she is now acting as though it was a conscious decision, which makes no sense at all. As you can tell inconsistencies begin to annoy me.
I enjoyed the part in the car and the accidental reading of Cate’s mind, I thought that this added the necessary mystery to the character, especially giving a momentary doubt to who she is and what her motives are. There’s also the questionable character of Martin, and his psychotic nature with his persistence in reading her mind and finding out what he can about her.
The itching came again, the tingling sensation of yet another attempt to peer inside my head, dread trailing down the length of my spine like a freezing fingertip.”
I think that this whole situation was really uncomfortable to read, but in a good way. I felt the character’s discomfort as though it was my own and I thought that was really cleverly written and done.
The meeting of the team and Ruby was, in my opinion badly done, we first have Ruby’s terror at seeing someone else trying to use their abilities. Which being brought up in a camp where she freely admits people blew up their cabins using their powers, seems a little out of place.
“Crazy Thurmond, with the FrankenKiddies?”
Then we move onto Liam’s insensitivity about medical testing on children, I understand that he wasn’t in a camp but there were children like him… just didn’t sit right with me.
Skipping ahead slightly, I was really impressed with the quotations from Watership Down I thought it was appropriate and it was well integrated into the story. It was not only simplistic foreshadowing but it was also sinister enough to add something more to the story.
One thing that I wish had been drawn upon and enhanced was the idea of people being aware that Ruby was in their dreams and that she was watching what was happening. I loved the idea of them waking up and knowing that something was different. It was a really interesting dynamic to read, especially seeing as Zu never openly confronts it.
I found the politics of the borders extremely amusing because I think that it could definitely be seen in today’s world.
“No, because they hated us all along, and were only looking for the right excuse to keep our fat asses and fanny packs out of their countries forever
The idea that the disease was just an excuse to cut the US was a brilliant thought, because now the country was without money, there is no other reason for other countries to be a part of it.
The use of book reviews as a message was something that as a book reviewer I thought was a brilliant method, and not only that but it is definitely something that could be used and fly under the radar because it isn’t a method of communication. Definitely enjoyed that reference.
Ruby’s back story and the moment we find out what really happened within her family dynamic was really well-written and emotional.
“Where are your parents? How did you get in this house?”
I found myself tearing up when reading about the rejection from her mother and the way that her father comes as though her saviour and rejects her as well. It was one of the best parts of the book for me, and I was thoroughly impressed.
Coming into the camp environment brought on a whole new way of looking at things, the references to Lord of the Flies and Chubs’ obvious fear of the campfire, it was well-done and once again well integrated into the story. I did find however that the whole time they were at the camp to be rushed and a little disjointed. I thought that there could have been a little more done with it, and was a little disappointed with the payoff.
One thing that I couldn’t understand was the whole Clancy, Liam and Ruby triangle, for a start it seemed that one moment there wasn’t a Liam and Ruby and then there was. It was all a little confusing especially when we add Clancy into the mix.
“That was something Clancy Gray liked to do, apparently – watch me”
What I didn’t understand was how Ruby didn’t pick up on the creep that was Clancy’s personality, it wasn’t a surprise to me, so I couldn’t see how it was to someone who was spending so much time with him.
What was a surprise was when Zu left without the rest of them, and effectively choosing someone else over them as a team. I was shocked that this actually happened, and I was really excited to see if the dynamic was going to change drastically or not. It did, but there wasn’t a lot of focus on it which I thought was a shame.
I think the biggest surprise for me was the moment that revealed Clancy was behind taking all the Reds out of the camps and the invasion of the PSF. I don’t know why I didn’t realise, maybe I was focused on the fact that he is the world’s biggest creep but I thought that it was really well done and I was thoroughly impressed with the way it was revealed.
Moving on to when they finally make it out of the camp, I thought that this was a completely different level of book, I really enjoyed them driving down the road, and the sense of direction that they had.
“The gunshot tore through the sunset, and by the time I screamed, Chubs was on the ground.”
My heart was in my throat as Chubs delivered the letter to Jack’s father, it was well written, and I felt sick to my stomach as he was shot, I genuinely felt heartbroken.
I don’t even have words to talk about the section where Ruby and Liam are taking into custody of the League. I thought that this was a really weak and cliche ending. I was so disappointed that Bracken had gone for the self-sacrificing decision because I thought that there could have been so much more done with it.