Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.
But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.
Her memories have been altered.
Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.
And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.
Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb… and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.
I was seriously leaning-forward, biting-my-lip, holy-crap excited after the second chapter of Renegade started. It was that freaky. Twilight Zone freaky. Then either it – or I – got lost in a disorganized plot that felt padded, even though it had amazing potential.
In an underwater self-sustaining utopia, Evelyn has been groomed as the Daughter of the People since she was practically a toddler, in preparation for her eventual rise to power as Mother to the people of Elysium. Mother is all-powerful and rules with a platinum fist, creating and carrying out justice, deciding couplings and generally being freakishly terrifying. What Evelyn doesn’t know is that her life is deliberately almost perfect.
Elysium was founded when war broke out and a group led by Mother decided they needed to find a new place to live apart from the violence and disorder. Surface Dwellers are considered dirty scumbags, pollutants and definitely not allowed in Elysium. So Gavin, the one Evelyn finds and is fascinated by, becomes a problem for Mother. Understatement. For once, something in her resists Conditioning and she risks everything to help him escape execution. And that’s when things just went haywire for me.
I might as well start with the unfortunate and end with the brilliant. Left as it was plot-wise, this would have worked as a novella. Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that this is written in the first person, present tense, from Evie’s point of view, so it all unfolds as she sees and remembers it.
One thing I don’t like in stories is endless running around by characters when it feels to me like it’s manufactured to create drama and not advance the plot. Gavin and Evie seemed like they were on this endless loop around Elysium, “outsmarting” Mother. Time after time, it was crisis, solution is someplace obscure we have to waste time on and crisis, solution is back where we came from. It never felt like they were going anywhere or learning anything particularly.
There was almost no discovering about Elysium or the Surface either because of all that running. I think the POV and present tense had a negative effect on the world-building because Evie just never thought of that stuff and what did come out felt painfully contrived given what had already been said about Mother and her insane security. There was no information about the war on the Surface and almost nothing about Elysium outside of what Gavin and Evie were doing.
I know this is an odd complaint, but Evie was way too kick-ass too early. I guess she forgot she was under Conditioning? She made horrible decisions and while I loved the concept behind her character and the way it developed, it took too long to get to the good stuff. That was the result of the running around issue again. Her light romance with Gavin was nice – there was no initial soulmates thing happening and while I may not have liked how fast Evie turned into Super Heroine, she and Gavin were pretty good at the action stuff together.
Gavin was a terrific character and felt real to me. I loved that he reacted so normally to everything. Things freaked him out, he got mad at Evie and yelled at her, he was afraid for her and he could admit it when he didn’t know what he was doing. Whenever there was trouble, he was the one I cringed for and he was the one who made me smile when Mother got her butt handed to her from time to time.
My Summary: At the end of the book, the story came full circle and had me back in the Twilight Zone with goose bumps. It wasn’t quite enough to fully redeem the whole thing and though I have no idea where Souders can take the series or if she’ll go more into detail about Elysium and the Surface, I won’t be around to follow it anyway. This might appeal to someone else – my potato for having no patience with endless loops of action may be someone’s potah-toe for non-stop excitement.
Note: This gets very gory – while it’s suggested for a YA audience, I’d recommend it for the upper range.