Saturday, April 23, 2016

New Review! Alice in No Man's Land by James Knapp, 4.5 Cranky Stars

2015 was the year I read some epic YA-Dystopia: Gods of Anthem, God's Loophole, The Divergent Series, and Alice in No Man's Land.

The story centers around Alice, a privileged girl who is dropped into a ravaged world. She is the daughter of the owner of Cerulean Holdings, a company that is realtor prospector (or looking at opportunities to gentrify) in territories known as the Bloc.

Alice's privileged world is protected from the diseased and poor by a wall and armed guards. Her only information of the Bloc is derived from her own social class and media i.e. mythologizing of the poor and oppressed. How somehow, this is their own fault and the rich are doing all they can to help.

When Alice and her brother are dropped into the Bloc, a different world opens up. One where privilege has no place or social cache and is exposed as a mythologizing principle: dehumanizing and grounded in benign neglect.

She has to rely on two characters she meets: Maya and Basilio, to save herself and her missing brother.

The story is told at a breakneck pace. The characters, Alice, Maya, and Basilio are likable.
I appreciated that Maya and Basilio weren't just the 'noble poor', but also subjects in their own right.

One of the reasons why this isn't a 5 star read is, as others have noted, the awkward romance that develops, and the way in which the male character becomes a potential point of conflict for the female characters. There's a tendency to bolster the strength of female characters in YA-Dystopia with romance. As if young women aren't of any real interest unless they're damsels in distress or attractive to males.

Conversely, there's also a lack of strong friendships between female characters in the genre. In my humble opinion, I think the story would have been stronger without the romance. It didn't make a lot of sense. It also interrupts the budding friendships between the characters, potentially pitting friends against one another.

In saying that, this was a top notch read. If you like this genre, like I do, I highly recommend it.

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