Genre: Young Adult - Dystopian/Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publishing Date: November 13, 2012
Page Count: 364
Source: Sent to Read
Description from Goodreads.com:
Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.
But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.
Her memories have been altered.
Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.
And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.
Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.
I guess I will start with the fact that this isn't a book I would have originally chosen for myself. Dystopian is a tricky genre for me, because they are all a little depressing. I don't like to be depressed while reading (lol) so, I tend to only read the big titles that everyone says is amazing. Across the blogsphere, Goodreads, and Amazon I have seen this series a handful of times under the recommendations tab, but I never picked it up. Working as an Associate Publicist for Release the Kraken PR I was given the opportunity to work with the Author for some PR needs for the upcoming, and last, book in the series. Something I decided to do for her was do a read-a-long with some of her fans in order to build excitement for the release of the last book. This means I would need to read the first two books for myself, and boy am I happy I did!
I'll first start with J.A. Souders writing style. It is absolutely beautiful! One reviewer on Goodreads. Tessi Tu, wrote that her writing is cinematic, and I don't think I can think of a better word to describe it. You are so easily able to see, understand, and feel everything that J.A. Souders wants you to. This book read like a movie in my mind, because the visuals were so spot on. Elysium is a very messed up, dark, creepy and scary place, but it is also very beautiful.
The characters are very well done and I enjoyed them a lot. Our main character is Evelyn and she is pretty much the best main character. She has this double personality that I loved. She is being brainwashed so she has this serene, innocent, kind persona for the first part of the book, but when she finally realizes what is going on and begins to rebel we see her true personality which is an independent badass! I loved getting to know her and I loved how Souders wrote her character where on the outside we hear this robotic, conditioned girl, but then we get a peek in her mind where she thinks, "Why did I just say that?".
Gavin was another well done character. Back on the surface, he is the responsible one. He takes care of things and has a duty to his family. Down in Elysium he is completely out of his element and has to put all of his trust in Evelyn in order to make it out alive. What I loved about Gavin is that even though his time in Elysium has been nothing but absolutely terrible, he still finds a way to not let that tarnish his thoughts about Evelyn. In an unknown world where you can't trust anyone, he chooses to not let those initial instincts effect his getting to know Evelyn. He learns to trust her even though she is the daughter of a monster.
And then there is Mother. Holy crow was she scary! I don't think I've ever seen a villain done so well. President Snow from The Hunger Games was a pretty terrible guy, but at the same time I liked him. He did things with a purpose, and you could sort of understand him. He also seemed a little apologetic, but at the same time was like, "What else could I have done?", ya know. Mother is not like this at all. There is no rhyme or reason behind her madness, she is just bat shit crazy. There are no redeemable qualities about her and there is nothing but fear for her in my heart. She is seriously the epitome of a villain.
Another great thing about this book was the dark, gory, violent scenes. While setting up the read-a-long for this series I had to read a lot of reviews on the books in order to find fans to invite. I don't remember who said it, or if it was later said in the read-a-long, but someone said something like this book initially reminded them of The Little Mermaid, but then it takes a drastic turn. Again, a seriously great explanation of the book. Evelyn is very sweet and innocent, and she lives in the bottom of the ocean. Everything seems perfect and great in Elysium until suddenly shit hits the wood chipper. Things get dark and violent very fast in Elysium. Most books that deal with a darker matter kind of gloss over it, but not this one. There is no glossing or mild details, this is serious, gut wrenching details that for some might be a little much, but I absolutely loved it and found it to be refreshing. The best part is that one minute you and Evelyn see something awful, and then the next scene she is back to being totally aloof due to her conditioning while you're left there slack jawed over what you both just witnessed.
This takes me to the last thing I wanted to mention in this (pretty lengthy) review, and that is the plot line! It has a lot of twists and turns in it and kept me on the edge of my seat. Just when you think it's safe or it can't get any worse. Mother shows up and makes it worse than you can imagine. There was not a single thing predictable about this story. I was just riding the tide of this story, because I didn't know where it was going to take me next.
I absolutely loved the first book in this series! The characters were very well done and I loved how Souders incorporated the brainwashing/conditioning aspects in a way that was both easy to understand and flowed well with the story as a whole. Mother is seriously one of the worst villains I have ever read about and hope to never meet. She is seriously out of her mind with power and I don't think there is a way to bring her back down. There are a lot of very dark and gory scenes so, this book isn't for the faint of heart. I absolutely loved those scenes and thought they were a refreshing change of pace to YA. With that in mind, the story line has many twists and turns, and as soon as you get comfortable with the plot line and think you know where it's going, it changes. This is a great book that I seriously recommend to those who love a good dystopian romance!
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 5/5
**The books cover, description, and info was all found on Goodreads. A link back has been provided. All other work and ideas are of my own creation. This book was given to me by the author for participation in a read-a-long.**