Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Dystopian Runs On Empty

(Image from Indiebound)

Gwen Jones has never been afraid of the dark or the quiet - until they become permanent conditions in her little town of Sage Valley, New York. As the world's supply of fossil fuels dwindles to nothing, cities all over the globe are running out of gas, food, clean water, medicine, and other necessities. Without electricity, people are cold, bored, and panicked. Gwen didn't have much to begin with, but she's never felt this deprived. Even with her brother's black market connections, she wonders how she'll survive.

Tom Harris knows he needs to get antibiotics for his mother, who's getting sicker by the day. The question is where to find them. He can't locate the medication in Sage Valley and his old truck's already running on fumes. His only hope lies in his family's sailboat. If he can successfully sail it down the Hudson, he just might be able to help his mom, not to mention his elderly neighbors. It's his only hope - well, that and Gwen, the weird Goth girl who just might hold the secret to saving them all.

Niki Barton's never gone without a thing - until the world starts collapsing around her. Suddenly, her stock broker father's out of a job, her family can't pay for electricity to heat their gigantic lake house, and, worst of all, contact lenses are no longer available. Used to getting whatever they want whenever they want it, her parents are paralyzed by the situation. It's up to Niki to make sure they all survive. The world may be ending, but Niki's still got two boys fighting for her attention. If she has to use them both to save her family, she'll do it in a heartbeat.

In this strange, new world, three teenagers will have to put aside their differences and work as a team to save their small town - and themselves - from extinction. Goths, cheerleaders, football players, none of that means anything anymore. Survival is all that matters now.

Empty, Suzanne Weyn's newest, is yet another book that grabbed me with its premise, but disappointed me with its execution. It's not the idea behind the book - a worldwide oil shortage sets a convincing stage for what could have been a truly compelling dystopian story. It's the characters (flat as pancakes), the dialogue (can you say stiff?), the plot (contrived), and the prose (completely overwritten). What results is a story that never achieves the kind of chilling believability that makes dystopian novels like Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It or Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker so fun to read. Unlike other books of this type, Empty actually ends on a positive note, something I would have really liked if it had been at all persuasive. Instead, the whole story comes off as fabricated. I've said this before about other books, but Empty feels more like a rough draft than a completed novel. With a little bit more effort, it could have been a whole lot better. I wanted so much more from it. Oh well, it's not the end of the world ... or is it?

(Readalikes: similar to The Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer)

Grade: D

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for intense situations

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Empty from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

4 comments:

  1. I haven't read this, but thanks for the review. I am a big fan of dystopian novels, but they have to be believable! :)
    Kristy @ Dreaming By Day

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  2. The ones that seem promising but can't follow through are so disappointing! Thorough review!

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  3. This one fell short for me as well. Interesting concept and had reat potential but I think in trying to make it so short some of the character and plot development was lost.

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  4. I'm so glad I never bought this! It looked & sounded good! Here's what always boggles my mind: how do books with lackluster characters or plots get through multiple people in the publishing/editing process? Someone along the way has got to say....um, they all bored me. Sorry.

    Thank you for this review! Also, Mockingjay totally didn't do everything I wanted it to do, but I feel that MOST loose ends were tied up. However, if she was gonna kill Prim off in the 1st place, why did she drag it out for 3 books, since Katniss volunteered to save her in the first place. The irony is not entertaining to me. :)

    Happy New Year!

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