For some reason I started this book with the expectation that I wasn’t going to like it. Or that it was going to be inferior somehow. I’m not sure where this idea came from and it begs the question…why did I buy the book if I was so sure I wasn’t going to like it? But I am so very glad that I did, as I loved it! It was one of those books I just couldn’t put down.
It’s no secret that I love dystopia fiction. But this type of dystopia is one of my favourites. The kind that truly seems as if it is just around the corner from today. As if we are one step away from welcoming this future. Also, I took this media art course in high school and ever since have been a bit of a snob about the evils of advertising. And this book is all about the evils of advertising. And the evils of a controlling government…and what happens when the government is the media.
The book is about Nina Oberon and her life after her mother is horribly attacked. Her mother’s last words incite a mission within Nina, a mission she must complete while staying ahead of the ever watchful eyes of the government, and ahead of her mother’s murderer.
I really loved the different teenagers in Nina’s group of friends and their different and realistic approaches to sexuality and adolescence. Even one character I disliked intensely, probably because she reminded me of people I didn’t like in real life, was empathetic and I always understood why she was doing the things that she did.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I am passionate about people being aware of advertising. Which sounds a little odd to say, but trust me, the amount of ads a person sees a day, on average, is astounding. And the majority of people don’t even realize it. So, I was way more interested in that side of the story then of the weird sexual customs this society had. I liked that Nina wanted time to think about sex and not just jump right into it at sixteen as the government urged. I liked the duality of it, where girls were encouraged to have sex and look as if they wanted to have sex while being told to remain pure if they wanted into an elite program that could make their families rich. It’s confusing enough being sixteen now, I can’t imagine what it’s like then where once it’s legal to have sex and you have you’re XVI tattoo, it is nearly impossible to prove that you didn’t want sex, as the whole society is based around the idea that you do.
I was hoping we’d see more rebelling against the government and have our teenage heroes join the ranks and topple buildings…or at least send out some illegal signals. But I wasn’t too disappointed. The mystery of the murder, and of Nina’s father is intriguing and keeps the plot moving nicely. I loved how Nina and her friends could go from being normal teenagers, worried about normal teenage things to rebels wanting to be free from their oppressive society in the drop of a hat. Once again, the duality of teenagers was show cased nicely here. The expectation to be an adult and have adult responsibilities mirrored with the desire to remain young and carefree and let others take of it.
The one thing that I do wish had been present in the book was a teenage female who was truly comfortable with their sexuality, with being a sexual person and not being punished for it in the end. A woman who was her own master in those things. But, it’s absence didn’t detract me from the story while reading. I just thought it would have been nice afterward. And, you never know, the author might just be saving this for the sequel/companion book.
As a bit of an aside, I was reading this on the way to work one day and I happened to glance up at the TV they have in the train station as I was exciting. It had a picture of a guy and girl with duct tape over their mouths and the words “Big Brother is Watching You” across the bottom of the screen. I had to move on before anything else could come up so it presented itself very much like a rebel message out of nowhere. I assume that it then displayed show dates for a theatre putting on 1984……I hope so anyway. I thought that was rather well timed and just a little nerve wracking.