The description of this book promised a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story in which a boy is trained for his responsibilities of Mayor over a town of survivors in a dying world, and in which a conspiracy threatens the lives of everyone he loves. I tend to enjoy YA literature and dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, so I was excited to receive a free ebook copy from the author to review, and dove into the book right away. My initial excitement soon wore off, though, and I struggled to complete the entire book, putting it down at least three times without any intention of picking it up again. It was only because I thought the author deserved a fair review that I completed it, and I’m glad I did, since I finally (well over the halfway point) came across the conspiracy and interesting plot points the book’s summary promised. Despite this, I still can’t give the book more than one star, for the following reasons…
Grammatical errors – I understand this was an ARC, and I normally don’t mind passing on info about typos or other errors in these early copies, but the errors were so blatant and so numerous that after a dozen or so I gave up on keeping track of them. It made me wonder if this book had even seen an editor; these errors should have been caught. The most obvious ones tended to fall into one of these categories:
– Extra end marks — Irritatingly, in the ebook copy there seemed to be extra end marks to every single sentence, so each one ended with at least two periods instead of just one. I thought it was simply adding in extra periods, except there were some cases where a sentence would end with both a comma and ellipses, or a comma and a semicolon. This made it very difficult to read.
– Run-on sentences: “It is definitely a Felum that much I can tell…”
– Inconsistent capitalization — At times the titles “Mayor,” “Father,” and “Mother” are capitalized, and other times they are not.
– Inconsistent pronouns when referring to Felum — At times, the Felum that Ben met is referred to as “he” and sometimes as “it,” sometimes even within the same paragraph or sentence: “I at least owe him something, even if that is defending it against father.”
– Missing words: “They didn’t care for their animals as much my tribe did.” “There is an iron on a nearby table with friend blood on it and have to stop myself from throwing up.” “I had stop by a cell…” “Dylan must’ve already that he wouldn’t be able to…” “Do it for me; do it the House…” etc.
– Spacing errors — At times, a paragraph is broken in half, with the quotation in one paragraph, and the rest of the sentence (beginning “he said” or “mother said” etc.) is in a new paragraph.
– Incorrect words — There are cases where the wrong word entirely is used (good/well, whom/who, like/liken, they/themselves) and a handful of other cases where the wrong homophone was used in a sentence (its/it’s, brake/break)
– Subject/Verb disagreement — This is one of my grammar pet peeves, and I nearly quit reading the book simply because of the repeated incorrect verb forms. For instance: “I don’t care what her and her nasty boyfriend thinks.” The subject is “her and her nasty boyfriend,” which is plural, so the verb should be plural as well — “think,” not “thinks.” Other instances of this error: “There is four of them…” “How is the wedding plans…” “A bit further away… is Brian and Lottie.” “…seventy people lived and was happy.” etc.
Vocabulary/”Voice” – The narrator is a fourteen-year-old boy, and though at times I felt the “voice” of the novel seemed even younger than that, the overall reading level probably would fit a fifth- or sixth-grade reading level. At times, however, the author would throw in a five-dollar word like “lachrymose” that would stick out like a sore thumb, inconsistent with the voice of the narrator or the reading level of the rest of the novel. This was in stark contrast to the language of the dialogue, which my husband — reading over my shoulder at one point — described as trite and shallow. I had to agree; the dialogue seemed incredibly forced, alternating awkwardly between very formal language “I shall have to leave” and modern teen phrases like “as if.”
Unlikable characters – I can cut the protagonist some slack, since he is supposed to be a young, teenage boy, but when I can find only one likable character in the entire story (Mother), I tend not to be as invested in the rest of them or care what happens to them.
– Ben (the antagonist) lies, schemes, sneaks around, mopes and pouts, loses his temper, kisses a married man (and then smugly refuses to apologize to this man’s wife), beats up another boy, slaps a girl, and basically acts like a spoiled three-year-old throughout most of the book. His obsession with Brian is completely unfounded (he pretty much had one conversation with him and decided he was in love), and when it is unrequited, he spends most of the rest of the book stewing and moping and scheming and blaming Brian for not picking him over Lottie. Ben’s immaturity in this matter irritated me, and it annoyed me that so much of the story revolved around this subplot.
– The women characters are particularly irritating. Skye is obnoxious and ditzy; Rosa is conniving and adulterous; and Lottie is shallow and completely clueless. Lottie’s behavior when she thinks she may be pregnant is simply unrealistic — telling an acquaintance like Ben about it before telling her family? Not remembering that she’s due in November, not June?
Awkward sexual references – I understand that in a coming-of-age novel, there may be some sexual references, but the ones in this book were the most awkward and out-of-place ones I had ever read. The first half of the book seemed to revolve around Ben’s obsession with Brian, and the way that played out included masturbation, erections, and incredibly awkward discussion about these bodily functions, including a “birds and the bees” talk with his father — how is it that someone can be considered a man in their society and become betrothed without having this knowledge?
Pacing – The first half of the book dragged on and on and on. I really could have skipped ahead to where Ben found Harold half-dead in the woods (at about the halfway point of the book) and not felt like I missed anything at all. The god-slayers piqued my interest, but it wasn’t really until page 120 of 185 that things really picked up and I felt like I was finally reading the story I had been promised by the summary. Some things (like Ben’s obsession with Brian) took us SOOOOO much of the book, whereas other parts that were more interesting or important (like Milo’s death) were given only one or two lines.
Unsatisfying ending – Though the last part of the book became more interesting, I still finished the book feeling unsatisfied in the resolution. It feels like this whole story could have been the first few chapters of a better book, leading up to where Ben and Skye go out in search of the God Cannon. There’s so much that’s hinted at (the Felum, the gods, the Order, the god slayers, Dylan’s supposed death, etc) that is never fully explained, it left me feeling more frustrated than intrigued.
I also was really disappointed in the lack of development of the post-apocalyptic world. I would never have guessed that the Glass Palace was an old shopping mall if it hadn’t said so in the book’s description; there wasn’t really enough description of it for me to come to that conclusion on my own. The only thing that we know about the “outside” world (though Ben has been on at least two journeys outside, none of which we really get to hear about) is that there are other Houses and woods and that anything resembling civilization has been destroyed. Also, apparently there were flying cars at one point, which I’m not sure what has to do with anything.
Overall, I was really disappointed in this book and had a hard time working through it. It desperately needed editing, and the story didn’t go much beyond the plot summary listed. The characters were unlikable and if I hadn’t wanted to give an accurate review of the whole piece, there’s no way I would have finished it.