It has been a while since I last read a dystopian novel so I was really excited to read this one. The fact that it was written by a Filipino author, Jennifer Ibarra, made it all the more interesting for me.
I think that this novel is easy to relate to despite the fact that it’s set in a place far more technologically advanced than present times. Readers can relate to the characters of both sisters, Ryla and Alanna Jensen, who embody a relationship much like any normal pair of sisters. Despite having different personalities, they are very close and obviously love and respect each other very much. So, it’s very interesting to find out how this series will pan out knowing that they will eventually choose rival paths that will no doubt put a lot of strain in their relationship as sisters.
The relationship between the sisters and their dad, President Jensen, the president of the Republic of Neress, is also a lot like a typical father-daughter relationship. There is obviously much love between father and daughters but there’s also conflict because there are differences in what the father wants for his daughters’ future and what they want for themselves. There is a constant struggle to obey and please their father but at the same time, feel as if whatever they do is not enough. I have no doubt that those of you who have this kind of relationship with your parents will find it interesting how these two girls have chosen to deal with their circumstances.
Beyond the family relationships though, a lot of people will also relate to the citizens of Neress as a whole, especially those from countries who have experienced a ruling dictator. The plot is not exactly original. Neress is being run by politicians who abuse their power to protect their own interests and who act as if they really know what’s best for each citizen.
What’s unique about Neress is that it is the government who chooses the career path of each citizen, based solely on the results of some aptitude tests. I find this very interesting and at the same time I can imagine how frustrated the citizens of Neress must be when they are forced into a path they would not have chosen for themselves. Much of this novel is all about the political struggle between the government and the so-called leftist group, Polaris. It makes me wonder if Ibarra, being Filipino, patterned this somehow with our country’s own experience with dictatorship many years ago.
I found this book a bit long. At first I didn’t know that this was part of a series (haha!). Much of the first half of the novel focused a lot on introducing the characters and the political atmosphere. It was only around the second half that it became really exciting with all the interesting twists and revelations. It was only then that I realized that this is only the first book of a series. So, that’s when it made sense to me why the first half of the book is the way it is. Ibarra was still laying out the groundwork for the rest of the series and I must say she really did a good job with it.
How this book ended is very much like a season-ender episode of a TV series. It really left me hanging and wanting more. I expect that the next book will be more exciting since all the groundwork has been laid out already in this one. If you’re looking for a new young adult dystopian series to read, this is something I really recommend. I can’t wait for book number 2!
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