Author: Michelle Rowen
Genre: Teen Fantasy
Rating: 2/5 stars
Release Date: September 24, 2013
The Overview: 3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped… 2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game. Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis…1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it. Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape.
I’ve agonized over this review for a couple of weeks now because the book was one of those that didn’t sing to me, even though it had several good attributes. Even so, the bad sort of outweighed the good in my mind and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I think the best way to approach it is to start off by talking about the things I enjoyed:
The overall concept for the book, and even the first chapter had me convinced this was going to be a five-star book. Two strangers are thrown together into a deadly game in which they have to complete all the tasks to survive. The suspense was increased when they realized they had to complete each task before the countdown hits zero or else they died. The life or death competition for survival in this book instantly reminded me of Hunger Games meets The Maze Runner. The characters didn’t know what was going on, save the fact that the tasks were for the amusement of a paying crowd. You can see why I was so excited – Rowen’s concept for this story was out of this world, and the way she told it within the first couple of chapters had me shaking with excitement (I also loved her voice, and enjoyed how well she immersed me in the character).
Then, the more the story moved along, the more the missed opportunities for brilliance began to add up. On to the things I didn’t enjoy:
As mentioned before, the basis for the book was that these two characters had to overcome a series of deadly challenges to make it to the end. The problem was, the challenges weren’t that difficult… or creative. In fact, their lack of development really kind of blew my mind. Most of the tasks took place with a 5 to 10 minute countdown, and by the time I got my brain wrapped around the task, it was already over. I honestly think that if the author had taken a half hour of her time and just brainstormed how to make these challenges interesting, she could’ve come up with something ten times better than what she had. Instead, what I felt were her biggest selling points of the novel came across as nothing but throw-away scenes. It showed a relative lack of awareness to setting and world-building, and I think those are non-negotiable elements when writing dystopians.
After finishing the book, I found out through Goodreads that this author writes under a different name (Morgan Rhodes) and that I have read a book by her in the past (Falling Kingdoms). I laughed when I discovered this because I discussed in that review how disappointed I was in the world-building. I also found out that this book was originally published as a romance novel and was adapted for a teen audience. It actually clarified a few question marks I had about why a female teen protagonist was seemingly okay (even though not thrilled) with a large audience of unknown spectators seeing her naked (and, additionally, why she was so un-conflicted about jumping in bed with a boy, but that’s another story). All I’m saying is that there were several parts of the book where I felt the author forgot her audience, and after seeing this story’s origins, am no longer confused.
Overall, I’m really bummed about this novel and what it could have been.
Recommended Reading: for those of you who have to read every dystopian on the market because you just can’t help yourselves.
Other dystopians you might like more:
Thank you Net Galley and Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read and review this book!