I should prefix this review by saying that I read this book while sitting around a campfire eating roasted marshmallows that had been stuffed with M&Ms. So, I’m a little biased in its favour.
After reading a slew of first-person, present-tense novels I found this one a little difficult to get into because of its third-person, past-tense prose. Once I did get into it, I found the world to be intricately woven, and the characters to be real and engaging.
The book is about a sixteen year old girl named Gaia. She has grown up helping her mother deliver the babies of the women in Western Sector Three of Wharfton. Wharfton is a small town full of poverty that exists next to The Enclave, a walled-in city full of prosperity and fortune.
The most interesting relationship in this book, was not between two characters, although there were some interesting relationships there as well, but between the two cities. While they were both very different and didn’t seem to like each other very much it became clear as the book went on that they needed one another. The people of the Enclave thought of Wharfton as parasite, something that had latched onto them and was sucking away their resources. Yet it became clear that despite all of their technological advances, The Enclave needed the people of Wharfton.
For, of course, there is a mystery surrounding the two cities. The Enclave demands to be given the first three babies born every month from every section of the city. No one knows why, or what is done with these children but as a result the Enclave provides them with good drinking water, food, and other commodities. At first the parents are okay with this, thinking that they are sending their children off to live better, richer lives.
But no one really knows what is happening behind the walls, and when Gaia comes home one night to find her parents have been taken inside the Enclave as prisoners it becomes clear that she needs to find out what is happening with the babies and what information her parents have been hiding.
Gaia was a fantastic main character. The perfect balance of young and naive with jaded and cynical. I almost didn’t want her to discover all of what was going on, just so she could hold on to some of that naivety. Her determination to find and rescue her parents is the driving force behind the plot and makes Gaia, a person who we see stealing babies away from new mothers, likable. Not necessarily an easy task for the author.
I thought Gaia’s trek into the Enclave was perfectly executed. It was hasty, and not thought out and almost immediately goes very wrong. But the people from inside the wall, are just that. People. They are not this overwhelming evil force despite what we first think about them. And there was evil and ugliness on both sides of the wall.
I’m trying not to spoilery but I’m just going to say, when Gaia was finally reunited with her mother, it was so perfect and heartbreaking. I both loved and hated the author for what she did there.
The ending was, well, there just wasn’t an ending. The common problem of reading the first in a series before the next books have come out. It was such a cliffhanger I almost threw the book into the fire. But I wouldn’t have been so upset if I didn’t care about the characters as much as I did. I don’t even like thinking about the ending because I just get worried. I need the next one. Like now.