So this novel has been on my Kindle since June – it’s a Kindle Unlimited novel so not sure if it was in an Amazon email or if someone on CBR had recommended it but I think it was one of those, “it’s free, why not?” reactions. Not that I didn’t find the premise intriguing, but as I realized when I started reading, I obviously hadn’t maybe done enough research. I have a tendency to read the book descriptions but I don’t go out of my way to look at the genre descriptions – this was obviously a dystopian novel but based on the premise description, I somehow was expecting a stand alone novel for adults, along the lines of A Handmaid’s Tale, Station Eleven or even Vox or The Power. I was not expecting another YA trilogy.
I was fine with the slow start to set up the world but about halfway through, I realized there was no way this was wrapping up in one novel. It’s not a bad novel by any means but it is a bit slow, I don’t think the twins always have very distinct voices even though the chapters alternate between their perspectives, and when it comes down to it, it was a bit light on plot and seemed like they could have done so much more. It’s basically the twins get caught, escape, travel through the US and discover the existence of an underground movement. There are so many other YA novels that have similar futuristic set ups with better characterization, better world building and better plot development – like that should be the first half of the novel, or there should be a lot more going on before the escape to establish the world.
Anyway, the idea is that this novel is set in the future; global warming has screwed with the food supply and the world geography (goodbye coastal cities), there is overpopulation and starvation. The United States still exists but the state of Texas and its governor have an extraordinary amount of power and are seen as an example of how to keep their people in line, even if this means cutting off the weak. As part of the population control, there is a strict one child policy in effect (now, while the authors and twins focus on the evils and strictness of the Texas governor, this one child policy is US wide and appears to have been in effect for the last 75 years). Even twins are forbidden. Ava and Mira should not exist – their father is the doctor in charge of the family planning department after all, but due to a home birth, he and his wife were able to hide the birth of their second daughter. As far as the system knows, only Ava exists. However, Mira and Ava have shared one life, switching days for when they can be out and about. Shortly after the novel begins, they are discovered.
One issue is the internal logic – everyone in the US has a microchip, and these can’t be replicated or faked. This means that while Ava has the official microchip in her wrist, Mira doesn’t. These microchips can pull up someone’s information when scanned. The idea that Mira can take Ava’s place without a microchip doesn’t make sense. If this is really a totalitarian state where everything is monitored, Mira shouldn’t even be able to enter her school without a microchip scan. Not only that, but my iPhone tracks my location – you’re telling me the microchip doesn’t have a GPS tracker and hasn’t noticed that Ava only goes to school every other day?
One other thing is that the resistance leaders all have tattoos on their forearms to mark and identify each other. If tattoos aren’t normal in this society, is it really that smart to get tattoos on your forearm to mark membership? Isn’t the whole point of resistance the ability to blend in and hide, not to have a giant ass target that makes you easily identifiable as soon as the police even consider taking you into custody? Also, there was this whole thing where the twins had a map with addresses and names of safe houses to go to after their escape – while en route, they have a run in with bandits who take the map from them (and a rather gratuitous rape threat scene – maybe to show how sheltered the girls have been?), yet at no point do Mira or Ava tell their helpers, “oh, FYI, you might be compromised, we lost the map with your name on it; yeah it was to common criminals, not government officials, but who knows what they might do with it?” I apparently had more quibbles with this than I realized while reading it. It’s short and free, but I doubt I’ll be picking up the sequel any time soon.