I was sent an uncorrected advance reading copy by TOR of Renegade by J. (Jessica) A. Souders. It’s to be published November/December 2012 in the USA. It is a young adult science fiction/fantasy novel that is the debut of the author.
I do not know who the cover artist is. The cover is not something that normally would have me pick up the book. Nevertheless, the back of the book blurb was interesting enough. I do not read a whole lot of young adult fiction. I don’t ever know how to rate young adult fiction. I suspect this one is pretty good. I do think there was a bit too much romance/sex. It’s kind of icky to read about teenagers and their hots for one another…. Overall, though, I think while not a completely original scenario, it’s solid and interesting for a young adult novel. It was a one-night read that didn’t require too much effort from me. Also, I believe this may be something of a series. Ultimately, one is not overly compelled to read the next in the series. Not because this novel was ungood (yeah, I went Orwell on you there), but because the story does not end on a cliffhanger. There are some relatively vague questions about the world, but I am fine with this as a standalone – or as expanded into a series.
The dystopia is a fairly standard theme here, nevertheless it is still interesting. It reminded me, in some of the setting, of Atlantis and Namor and Imperius Rex. Anything that does that is a good thing. I also thought the mind-conditioning, amnesia, and brainwashing were written really well. So, good setting and good plot device.
The bad: there were some chapters toward the end of the novel that seemed a little circular. The characters are being hunted, they are lost, etc. I feel like they were really going in circles. Not terrible, but something else needed to happen there.
The villain, Mother, was sufficiently creepy and deranged. “My life is just about perfect.” Again, while somewhat predictable, she was unrelenting throughout and was not wishy-washy. I really do not like villains who vacillate or who are weak. If you’re gonna be a baddie, be bad to the bone! Of course, though the villain was obvious, the reader understands the loyalty the main character, Evelyn Winters, still has toward her. In fact, one can almost sympathize with the reasons, if not the method, for the pseudo-utopia underwater that Mother controls.
I appreciate the mix of tech and non-tech in this one. There is a really subtle balance between science and simplicity that I was surprised to find in a young adult novel. I do not know how many young adults will actually pick up on this, but I found it to be a good thing. Overall, there was nothing surprising to the plot. I think the author has some good ideas and is a decent writer. I don’t think she’s ever shot a handgun or done any hand-to-hand combat, but I do not think this lack of realism in the novel damaged it in any way. I admit that I am not a big young adult fiction reader so my rating is not expert-level, but I am giving it three stars – it probably deserves three and a half, to be honest. Three stars is not a bad rating – it’s a solid novel and given that it’s the author’s first, I expect much more goodness from Souders.