Author: Lydia Kang
Series: Control #1
Genre: Teen Fantasy
Rating: 2/5 stars
The Overview: When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn’t even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA. –> A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.
With so many unread young adult books in my TBR, I don’t know that I would have picked up Control had I not heard the author participate in a panel Q&A at the 2013 Vegas Valley Book Festival. I found it interesting that Kang got her start in the blogging world by being the go-to person for accurate medical references – authors would hit her up with questions about how to make scenes more realistic. Because she is a doctor by profession, I was curious to see how she would weave that vast medical knowledge into a YA novel. Once she described the premise of Control and read a few passages from it I knew I was sold.
And, despite the low rating, I’m still glad I gave this book a try.
This is one of the more difficult books to review because I actually thought halfway through that it was going to be a 4 or 5 star rating. The writing was strong, the story was compelling, and the characters were intriguing. Then, somewhere along the way she lost me… and here’s why: character inconsistencies.
I really liked Zel at the beginning, admiring her determination and strength but also appreciating just how smart she was. My issue lies with how she developed throughout the story. It always sort of bothers me when seemingly intelligent characters make brainless decisions. In Zel’s case, she constantly threw logic and rational out the window in favor of some really harebrained plans. Even allowing that she was distraught, it just didn’t make any sense – made all the more worse because she never really thought anything through. She went from reasonable to reckless at the flip of a switch.
The side characters, specifically the “freaks” Zel mets at the safe house, were among my favorite elements of the book. However, the author took a few of them in directions that left me flabbergasted. I just didn’t see motives behind their actions – especially the love interest, but I’ll leave off there to avoid spoilers. Suffice to say that by the end I felt like I was reading about totally different characters than I started with. Don’t even get me started on the bad guys.
Although it might seem kind of minor, all things considered, the drastic change of character really did affect my enjoyment of the entire book. It’s a total shame because there were a lot of things I really liked about this author. For one thing, she had an excellent way with words. The writing style had so much personality – it made everything more fun to read. I was surprised how quickly I became emotionally involved in the story. Kang had such a strong voice that I could hardly tear myself away from the first half of the book.
The concept was also a pleasant surprise – she took a bunch of genetically mutated kids (who would’ve been otherwise disposed of by the government) and made their horrifying and gross mutations somehow cool. I never would’ve thought having a second deformed head on my body would be appealing… until I found out it would mean I could stay awake indefinitely – cool huh? Okay, it was a little weird but I loved the silver lining to each mutation – like how the boy with extra arms gave really good hugs.
Overall, I was so excited about this book halfway through that it kind of doubled the disappointment when it nosedived. I don’t even view it as a flaw with the author’s skills, I just think she made some poor outlining decisions. It was enough to bump my 4 star rating (really liked it) down to a two star rating (it was okay). Even so, I would be willing to read more from this author in the future, and hope her next novel is a lot more consistent.
Recommended Reading: I might still recommend this book to interested customers because it’s unique enough to stand out among the myriad of dystopians on the market, so it just might satisfy someone’s craving for something different. Otherwise, I’ll probably only mention Control if the person has already read my favorites in the genre.
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