Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review: The Revealed by Jessica Hickam

YA dystopian fiction is very popular right now. It seems to be the most common sort of YA fiction filling shelves. And it is filling them at a breakneck rate. Personally,  I have read a handful of dystopian novels in the past and even a couple that were intended for a YA audience but it generally isn't a theme to which I regularly gravitate.  Jessica Hickam's new novel, The Revealed, centered around the idea of an organization that takes 18 year olds and disappears with them in a future not that far off, was intriguing enough for me to pick up though.

Lily Atwood is eighteen and her father is running for President in this new world. There has been a devastating war and according to Lily, society has regressed to the nineteen twenties. Because her father is so high profile, Lily, like other wealthy eighteens, is being kept carefully protected in her home to keep her safe from the mysterious and frightening organization called The Revealed. But Lily knows all the protections that are in place are futile if The Revealed want to take her. And it would appear they do since periodically Lily finds notes taped to her windows taunting her with their plans to steal her away. Lily is terrified but other than staying close to Jeremy, her father's chief of security, there's not much she can do besides try to tamp down her constant fear and panic.

But Lily's a typical teenager and despite knowing that her seclusion in the family's mansion is for her safety, she chafes at the bonds, occasionally slipping out and trying to live a normal life. She is helped in this by her best and only friend, Rory, who works in the kitchen at the mansion, and Kai Westerfield, the son of the other Presidential candidate, a seemingly golden boy who Lily remembers as one of the thoughtless, entitled, popular boys from high school but also from way back when she was small, before the war, and the Atwood and Westerfield families were close. Just as she cannot resist escaping from her gilded cage every now and again, Lily is unable to stay away from Kai, despite the fact that she is wary of him and knows his father is not to be trusted and quite possibly evil.

Since she's certain that nothing can protect her from The Revealed, after all, they have strange abilities that make traditional protection methods completely impotent, Lily is reckless, grabbing at life while she can, always remembering that the periodic notes promise her a fate that terrifies her. She is falling for Kai, getting ever closer to him, and wanting to trust him despite his father. She feels neglected by her own father, who is so consumed by his presidential bid that he doesn't take the time to see what is going on in her life, and she has always felt merely tolerated by her mother, a woman more concerned with appearances than with her daughter's very real concerns and needs.  Her self-confidence is almost nil. She is either desperately lonely or frightened most of the time so it's no surprise that she is so deeply attached to Kai and Rory very quickly. But do they have her best interests in mind?

Lily's character was a fairly surprisingly immature one. Not only is she eighteen, but she lived through a devastating war, and yet she is still very self-centered and na├»ve, like a significantly younger teen. For all that she claims to understand the very real danger to her and the fear it inspires in her, she sneaks out (and far too easily for the veritable fortress in which she's supposed to be living, I might add) and puts herself in situations that completely thumb her nose at the danger and fear, very contradictory attitudes within the same character. Her loyalty to her father is apparently based on nostalgia but there's not quite enough depth to her remembering to inspire this considering how dismissive he is to her throughout the novel. And there's too little of her friendship and interactions with Rory to make that a rich vein in the story.  Her feelings for Kai are sweet and genuine and are as charged as any first love is.

The plot twists (and there are two) are well done and at least one of them is unexpected but definitely works to turn the story. The tension leading up to the appearance of The Revealed is a bit drawn out but clearly Hickam needed that time to build her world and given that this is only the first in an expected trilogy, it will ultimately be just a small portion of the entire story. Even with all of that world building though, there are still many instances where the reader is told what has happened in this new world but never really gets to see it. Because of this, the world doesn't really feel different from our own. Lily notes the scarcity of books and cars, the presence of genetically modified Jack-in-the-Beanstalk type crops to feed the much reduced population, the colorlessness of the factory workers, and the complete nuclear devastation of the interior of the former United States but all of these are just that, underdeveloped mere mentions. The ending wraps up a major plot issue but still feels a unfinished since it's clear that there's far more to the story, a common weakness with planned trilogies.  Over all, the concept of how best to rebuild the world to benefit everyone, even if it was only touched on briefly, was interesting. The theme of struggling out from under the expectations of parents and leading a life of your own choosing is much more completely examined and Hickam does a good job handling this rite of passage. Fans of dystopian fiction will probably quite enjoy this one. I was left with a few too many questions to be completely satisfied.

For more information about Jessica Hickam and the book, check out her website, her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on GoodReads. Take a look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Janay from Book Sparks PR and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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