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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cults + Dystopian Should = A Uniquely Intriguing Read, Right? Yeah, Not So Much.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Life in the Community is peaceful, serene.  Not like the outside world where violence reigns and children—like Layla Hamilton's little sister—can be stolen from their front yards, never to return.  The Hamiltons feel privileged to be among the Chosen, one of only 20 families selected by Pioneer (through visions from God) for salvation.  Their devoted leader knows the end of the world is nigh; he instructs his people to stockpile food, practice shooting to kill, and keep the Silo—their underground fortress—a secret from anyone outside the Community.  

Fifteen-year-old Layla, who's lived under Pioneer's protection for the last 10 years, is content with her cloistered life.  Mostly.  She's looking forward to the End with more excitement than trepidation.  In the meantime, she's thankful to be matched for marriage with her best friend Will.  Maybe her heart doesn't skip a beat when he walks in the room, but she feels comfortable with him.  Truly, there are worse ways to spend her last days on Earth.  

A chance encounter with a boy from the Outside who questions the ways of Pioneer and his Community makes Layla's head spin.  She can't believe someone as nice as Cody Crowley could be evil, deserving of an apocalyptic death.  And the things he's saying about Pioneer—could they possibly be true?  What if he's not receiving divine revelations at all?  The more Layla thinks about it, the more disturbed she becomes.  With Pioneer's predicted apocalypse right around the corner, she must decide what she believes, where she stands and what to do with the time she has left.  At the risk of losing everything that's most important to her.  Forever.  

I don't know why, but I find cults totally intriguing.  That, coupled with my morbid love for dystopian novels, made Gated, a debut novel by Amy Christine Parker, a natural reading choice for me.  Even though the premise sounded a little too familiar, I figured the cult aspect would make the story unique.  Yeah, not so much.  The world of the Community just isn't developed well enough to be believable.  Nor is Pioneer himself.  He might even be the least dynamic of all the characters in the book.  Nothing about him convinced me that he could entice an entire group of people to follow him.  As far as plot goes, there's little here that I haven't seen before.  What does the novel having going for it, then?  Well, it's definitely a quick, exciting read.  It's also a clean teen book, which is something of a rarity.  Layla's questions also made me think about the differences between selfless leaders and egotistical dictators, prophets and imposters, and faithful following vs. blind obedience.  Overall, though, Gated just didn't do a whole lot for me.  I wanted to like it a whole lot more than I did.  Ah, well, such is my reading life.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams; The Hallowed Ones and The Outside by Laura Bickle; and a bit of The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and intense situations
To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

1 comment:

  1. Well, that's a disappointment. This one sounded good! Maybe the author will get betting in time. I still might read this one.


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