Author: Emma Pass

Publication: 2013, Delacorte

Pages: 381

Overall Rating: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Rating for Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Jenna Strong is the only female inmate in a maximum security prison, sentenced there for the murder of her parents. She’s learned to defend herself and adjusted to her new life, but everything changes when a mysterious organization breaks her out. Soon she’s on the run, with a new face and a new identity. But ACID – the state police agency that runs the Independent Republic of Britain – is never more than a step behind. And if Jenna wants her life back, she’s going to have to take them down.

Age of Main Character: 16

What I Liked the Most: Pace does an excellent job of creating a setting that’s just different enough from our own world to be tantalizing, while still retaining a sense of the familiar. It’s the UK 100 years from now, following decades of recession and economic collapse. All the vehicles are electric, the trains are fast and silent, guns use heavy pulses of electricity rather than bullets, most of the food is artificial, and paper books are all but unheard of. Other than that the world is pretty much the same – traffic, ham and cheese sandwiches, coffee. It’s a place that’s scarier and more impoverished than today’s world, but a far cry from the dregs of a genuine dystopia, and I liked that.

Jenna herself represents a balance of strength and vulnerability – able to take charge and even kick a little ass when required, but not afraid to reveal her true feelings. And like all good heroes, she’s just impulsive enough to keep getting herself into the kind of trouble that makes for high drama.

What I Liked the Least: Warning – this section is filled with spoilers. I’ve tried not to give away too much, but read at your own risk.

Pass glosses over or simply ignores a host logical fallacies and plot holes. For the first 250 pages this was little more than a nagging annoyance. Yes, we ignore the stark reality that as the only female prisoner in a maximum security prison Jenna would have been gang raped a hundred times before she could learn to defend herself. And we more or less ignore just how ridiculous the goals of the group that freed Jenna really are – taking down ACID by bringing them up on charges before the European Court of Justice, despite the fact that the Independent Republic of Britain isn’t part of Europe and can thumb their noses at whatever decision the Court hands down.

But the last 150 page get so ridiculous it becomes hard to take the story seriously. Among other things, Jenna and her companions manage to fake their way into a secret super max prison by posing as guards while effectively ignoring what happened to the real guards or why ACID would let a group of activists waltz into their secret prison based on little more than fake IDs and stolen uniforms. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Pass ignores.

Worst of all, ACID – which is meant to be an all-powerful secret police force – often came off as oblivious if not actively incompetent.

How Good was the Action? Okay. Most of the fights felt pretty one-sided – either for or against Jenna – and the final confrontation was somewhat anemic. The chases were generally over a little too fast and the fights were too quick – not in the brief, brutally violent form of books like Road of the Dead, Boy Soldier, and Bodyguard, but more in the sense of hardly noticing they were there.

How Engaging was the Story? To be fair, there were parts of the book that really managed to suck me in. In fact, most of the first 250 or so pages were quite engaging, especially when Jenna is on the run with Max, the son of a man she’s accused of killing. I genuinely felt the tension in their relationship. And when the two of them hold up with a group of anarchists it was hard to put the book down. But all that changed towards the end, as the plot got increasingly far-fetched, and eventually I had to force myself to keep reading.

Profanity: Minimal to none.

Sex: A few kisses and some mild fantasizing.

Violence: Some, but far less than I would have expected for a book about a tyrannical military government. There’s very little blood. We see a few scenes of prisoners living in filthy conditions. And while I fully expected a torture scene at one point, it never materialized.

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