* Pub. Date: April 2010
* Publisher: Harlequin
* Format: Paperback, 320pp
* Age Range: Young Adult
* ISBN-13: 9780373210060
Disclaimer: I received this book to review from the lovely people at netGalley.
Keep Your Head Down.
Don't Get Noticed.
I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? The only neck at risk is my own…until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution.
Let me start out by saying that the premise for this story is fascinating and a wonderful idea. I give the author full credit for this and for taking on a challenge like this. This book is very much scifi which, in my humble opinion, is more difficult to write than many other types of fiction. You are trying to build a specific alternate world that has precise rules and reasons for these rules and science and technology that fills this world and makes it run that isn't tech we're used to so you have to explain it well, you have to be consistent. Just a few small discrepancies can become huge bumps and holes in the narrative and plot. I commend Ms. Snyder for her imagination and guts for taking this all on. Now, I'm going to explain to you why, for me personally, this book was an exercise in torture.
First, let me say that I don't understand why the author beat the reader over the head with the social and moral lessons of the book. I GET IT. I have read scifi and post apocalyptic stories before. I DON'T NEED TO BE BLUDGEONED UNTO DEATH WITH IT.
An example of my beef, is the overly obvious and simplified version of who was the "better race" and who was "the lesser race." Excuse me whilst I cringe. Ahem, moving on, the "Uppers" ,obviously enough, live in the upper two levels of Inside and are the ruling race. They also seem to be paler, blonder and have blue eyes (not always but enough to make my ass friggin uncomfortable cuz I CAN READ BETWEEN THE LINES) whereas the poor lowly "Scrubs" live in the cramped, overpopulated two lower levels of Inside. They have been so inbred and oppressed that they all have brown eyes and brown hair, all uniqueness bred out (correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that's a genetic possibility, but I digress). Inside is a huge cube (rectangle, I suck at geometry), the exact measurements of which are unknown to our heroine (and I use the term loosely) but she estimates it to be approx 2000 meters long by 2000 meters wide by 25 meters high. For those of you who are dumb Americans like me and dont't do meters let me break it down, she lives in a box that's about 1 1/2 miles by 1 1/2 miles by 82 ft, give or take. Now there are something like 18,000 scrubs in the lower two levels. It's very crowded. Conditions pretty much suck. The Uppers supposedly live in lovely little family units and have ALL THIS SPACE, The Bastards! Right there, I lost faith in the intelligence of our intrepid heroine. You live in a box. They have the same space you have. They may be less numerous but where the hell does all this fabled extra space come from? But we learn quickly that our heroine doesn't need to make sense or even possess any.
I should mention at this point a problem I had with the world and trying to understand it. The author uses the metric system for all measurements, which I completely admit would not be a problem for others since a lot of other readers will be more familiar with the metric system so I didn't let that bother me, I just googled a lot. What was harder was the time system. There are no years or months. It's all broken down to weeks. What's harder still is that the weeks aren't like our weeks. They break days down into 20 hours and I think weeks into 100 hours and then there are groups of 100 weeks which are centiweeks.....at this point my head started hurting. All ages of people are spoken of in weeks and when I tried to convert them into years, I had a problem because of the different day and week measurements. The author must have known this would cause confusion because at one point Trella, our heroine, helpfully says that she's so many weeks old or if she used "the old system" she was approximately 17 years old. Funny because earlier she didn't know what a year was when she mentions that some "old timers" referred to their coming of age as sweet sixteen. So, there are people old enough to remember a different time system but no one knows what's Outside the cube and why they're there? Interesting.
Trella, the heroine (sigh), is one of the most unlikable protagonists I've ever encountered. Let me be clear and say the only reason I finished was because I wanted to know what was Outside. Not because I cared what happened to Trella, but because I was fascinated with why they were in this totally self-sustaining cube and what it all meant. Trella despises the Uppers because they have it so much better than her and she disdains ALL the other scrubs because they're all stupid sheep, unlike her *eye roll*. Trella comes off at first like she's street smart (for lack of a better term) and savvy and doesn't fall for any crap. The truth is, she swallows the most obvious lies like honey, but if you try to tell her something even marginally good or hopeful EVEN IF IT MAKES SENSE homegirl aint gonna fall for that crap. Le sigh again. The book on my computer came to 316 pages. She never fully pulled her head out of her ass until about pg 250 and by pg 265 she had firmly reinserted it. Everytime something got hard or went wrong (you're leading a revolt honey, it's gonna) she would immediately slip into, OMG! THIS WAS ALL AN ELABORATE SETUP BY THE MAN! HOW COULD I BE SO STUPID? This happened A LOT. Then people would come to her to help and it was always a huge inner debate, Can I trust them OR IS IT ALL JUST AN ELABORATE SET UP BY THE MAN TO BE MEAN AND GET MY HOPES UP? The author constantly had to force obstacles. It was one step forward and three back. Then I loved this little gem, It's bad for the Uppers to think they're better than the Scrubs. No one should treat other people like they are less than equals, but WAIT Trella is super speshul because she WAS BORN AN UPPER!!! I kid you not another character called her a "Thoroughbred" among the scrubs. That's why she was so much smarter and speshul and the Savior. KILL. ME. NOW. The only people I cared about were side characters. Riley, the love interest and nice Upper boy, that shows her that HELLO WE LIVE IN A BOX! UPPERS DON'T HAVE IT THAT MUCH BETTER THAN YOU. And wants to be her boyfriend. And a cast of really interesting characters from the lower levels that jump at the chance to stick it the The Man. I seriously got so sick of Trella that I hoped she would find the fabled Gateway that would lead to the Outside and when she opened it the monster from the Star Trek movie would promptly eat her. Yeah, I'm a bad, bad person. Then, Trella actually talked some sense and all the people that had been the voices of reason turned and looked at her like she was a moron and said, why do we need to know what's on the other side of the door? Let's just pop that bitch open and waltz on through. KILL. KILL. KILL.
I had so many issues with this book, and I think what was really tough was that there was so much potential that it was tough to see it sink under the heavy handed writing and unlikable protagonist. Also, the fact that the author made the heroine deliberately obtuse and willfully ignorant to seemingly stretch out the "suspense" and "mystery" (and I mock those b/c the only person it was a mystery for was the protag. Irony, you gotta love it) and that just felt insulting.
The villains were so comically and over the top horrible and stupid that I'm amazed they hadn't been overthrown long ago. Every time someone would mention something technical, they'd find a reason to not explain how it worked, because I don't think even the author could be bothered with these details. And so many questions went nowhere. Trella bumbled about and survived on a combination of dumb luck and other people (whom she has disdain and/or despised forevah) saving her ass CONSTANTLY.
The horrible part is, I will probably pick up the sequel just because I want to know what will happen with this society and I'm hoping (please God) that now that some things have been resolved and Trella has learned how to interact with people, she won't be such a whiny, unfeeling, 2 dimensional, HEARTBURN TO READ. Hope springs eternal.
I give this book a D. It's the first book I've given such a low grade to and I feel a bit bad about it, but I can't justify a higher grade. The only reason it wasn't a DNF is because the concept intrigued me and I wanted to see what happened. Even if I wanted to pull a Prince Humperdinck and skip to the end.
You may buy this book here
P.S. I really enjoyed Ms. Snyder's Study series and I do recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fantasy that's slightly dark and very entertaining.
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