WASTELAND by Kim & Klavan

 In BKReview, Dystopian


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[note color=”#feeed2″]WASTELAND

Author: Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan
Genre: YA
Rating: 3 out of 5
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: March 26, 2012
Recommended Reading: AGE 15+



NUTSHELL: This was definitely not one of those dystopian stories where the reader is swept into a different, alternate, dark future, with high tension, deep relationship’s and evil leaders you love to hate. But not for lack of trying. Don’t get me wrong, Wasteland  touched on every one of these elements, but the execution was lacking. It felt like the skeleton of something great, but there were far to many unanswered questions to make it rise to the top. If dystopians are your thing and you are willing to overlook flaws in the plot, or suspend disbelief regarding those tricky (and sometimes confusing) world-building components, then check this one out. It’s not great, but it might just be good enough.

[frame align=”left”]SYNOPSIS:Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants —- hermaphroditic outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin.[/frame]

NITTY-GRITTY: The first and most glaring issue with this book is the third person omniscient narrative point of view. This is such a difficult view to pull off correctly without confusion. While, in this tale, the narrative eventually becomes clear as to what character we are following, but it take as quite a long time to get into the tempo. For much of the book, I was unsure about everything, including the who, what and why. In fact, I found myself asking why bother, but once I got into a rhythm I began to enjoy it. It felt disjointed, like I was reading the work of two writers…oh wait, I was.

The second reason I was unable to fully connect, was due to a lack of any real answers. There was this amazingly imaginative dark future, run by children, yet no explanation for any of it. Every conclusion was assumed or based off of inferences. It’s not that I need everything spelled out for me, but I also expect to know a little about what spurred the current scenario. I need a little world building. I kept waiting for it to unfold, but it never did and I was left with many of the same questions I had in the beginning, at the end. I did, however, like the idea of an offshoot community of mutant hermaphroditic outcasts (named The Variants) who were prejudiced against by the “norms” for being different. Further, the lead protagonist befriends one providing a good commentary on tolerance. However, that story never manifests into much and the Variants storyline is at best, hollow.

For those romance fans, there is a love story built-in and although the deepening love affair grows throughout, it feels a tad forced. I also found the idea that very young children who marry at 14 and have children shortly thereafter, a little far-fetched. No matter what our world becomes, it is hard to believe children would be mature enough to navigate such complex emotional situations. If, perhaps, the writers had included a deeper back story I might have been able to suspend disbelief, but there wasn’t and I couldn’t.

If you aren’t too picky about the minutiae, this one might be right for you. But don’t take my word for it; give it a try. It may be frustrating and vague at times, but it is also imaginative and intriguing, with a protagonist that starts off unlikable, but grows to become a self-reflective and redemptive heroine. And who doesn’t like a redeeming leading lady.

(received a free copy in exchange for an honest review)

Sara O'Connor
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