Today I bring you . . . Yet another YA dystopian. Surprise, I know. But there are so many! And some of them are actually okay.
Like this one, Possession by Elana Johnson. I’ll admit, parts of it annoyed me to no end. Like how every other sentence begins with “Yeah” or “Because,” which is not a proper way to begin a sentence, as we all learned in third grade. I am generally unopposed to Because, actually, but when used well and with a purpose. These becauses just annoyed me. The yeahs were also a problem, especially for the first few chapters, but the actual story I liked just fine.
Vi lives in a world of black or white, good or bad. Literally. The Goodies have white skin that’s never been exposed to the sunlight. The Baddies are tan. The Goodies have rules, and the baddies don’t. Vi is a Goodie. Zenn is a Goodie. Jag isn’t.
In their world of strict rules and regulations, Vi and Zenn try to stay true to themselves, even in the face of the brainwashing transmissions Goodies are subject to every night. These transmissions are produced by the Thinkers, those who think so the general population doesn’t have to. They’re designed to keep the masses under control and working for the greater good – but only as the Goodie officials see fit. Vi, caught in the act of outright rulebreaking, (walking in the park with her government assigned match – very hardcore) is sent to prison, awaiting a sentence she doesn’t know exists. There she meets the charismatic badboy Jag. Living in the same cell, they get to know each other more personally, and Vi learns that the Baddies she always feared aren’t as the Goodie government makes them out to be, that they may be more like herself than any other Goodie she’s met – even Zenn.
Vi changes her mind again and again as she sees the rest of the world (sometimes with Jag, sometimes without) and ultimately makes the decision that will change her life – and many others’- forever.
I wasn’t expecting to love Possession, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. I’m definitely going to read the second book in the series, Surrender, which is already out. (After a few seconds of research, the third and final book, Abandon, is also on the shelves.) I liked the main character, Vi, just fine, and the love triangle (twisted as it may be) isn’t completely sickening, which would’ve surprised me to know if you’d told me at the one-third mark. (Side note: are there any YA dystopian books that don’t feature a love triangle? I would love to hear about them if they exist. Edit: Since posting this I have thought of several books with no love triangle but distinctly dystopian aspects. Also Divergent, which is currently the poster child for YA dystopian. I retract my previous statement.) Original love interest Zenn is brainwashed by the government, in training to become a high-class official, when Vi is imprisoned for breaking the rules to be with him. In prison, second love interest is introduced – gorgeous, dangerous, smexy Jag. Vi didn’t stand a chance. Really, she didn’t. Jag has the ability to control people with his voice – something he wasn’t morally opposed to using on Vi when it suited his purpose. I will stop now to avoid spoilers. Anyway, Vi has to choose between good guy Zenn and his offering of peace and love and complete governmental tyranny or Jag and his exciting, adventurous brand of freedom in a coastal political asylum called Seaside. Which would you choose? I’m pretty sure you and Vi picked the same thing (not a spoiler, promise).
Getting more into the actual book stuff, I liked the voice the story was narrated in (first person from Vi’s point of view), barring the previously mentioned ‘yeah’ and ‘because’ annoyances. She’s a sarcastic and attitudey person, which is the kind of voice I enjoy in one of those “run-of-the-mill” badass heroines YA so frequently features these days. An interesting problem for readers of the book is the oppositeness of the lingo – to Vi the Goodies are the bad guys and the Baddies the ones in the right, though her opinion is subject to change with whatever emotion she’s got brewing in her angsty head. “Freedom” is a government holdup and brainwashing facility. Everything’s the other way ‘round. Eventually Vi comes to the conclusion that the government-provided labels she’s grown up sticking on everything she’s seen probably aren’t the best thing for her to keep as her frame of reference, but not until the reader has worked out the general connotations of each name.
The conflicts and character profiles that inhabit the book are pretty common things – good versus bad, obedience versus freedom, old and dependable boyfriend versus new and thrilling boyfriend, etc. Not so much a groundbreaking new futuristic commentary on the world’s future. Somehow everything works, though, and creates an enjoyable story I could definitely get behind and devour. I timed myself reading and it took me exactly three hours fifty five minutes and forty four seconds of dedicated reading time to finish the book, and about twenty six hours from beginning the book to reading the last page, including the time it’s taken me to sleep/eat/practice other human occupations. A testament to the interestingness of the book, I do believe.
Though as I read through this review I realize it sounds pretty negative, I actually quite liked Possession, even factoring in the ‘yeah’ and ‘because’ conundrum. I’m probably bashing on it so much because I’ve been immersed in Vi’s seethingly critical narration for the past couple hours, and I went straight to writing a review without taking time to let her voice work its way out of my head.
I would recommend you read Possession when you have a good chunk of free time, as it’s the kind of book you want to enjoy all at once. I’m glad I chose it as my first read of this year’s summer. Look for reviews of the next two books in the near future.
PS: So, after some more of my ever occurring research, it turns out the next book in the series follows Vi’s new roommate, who we haven’t met in Possession. Very disappointing to me. Just thought I’d let you know.
PPS: More research reveals the next book is told in multiple perspectives. Again, not excited.
Final update: After reading a few pages, it doesn’t seem so terrible. Review to come.