Waiting for my vintage science fiction treats to arrive from various destinations, I ran through a young adult novel that was purchased awhile ago – on sale. Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith was first published in the UK in 2009. I read the tradeback US version. I love squeezing in “easier” reads between complex “literary fiction” and vintage science fiction. It lets the brain rpm’s cycle down and I do not get bored. I was actually really looking forward to reading this particular novel for a couple of reasons.
First of all, I have noticed a trend that the majority of what is classified as “young adult” is really geared toward and marketed to young females. Now, I know that historically, females were marginalized in science fiction/fantasy. They were the busty pseudo-Renaissance characters on fantasy novel covers or simply walking, talking baby-manufacturers in science fiction novels. Some novels did not even have a female character at all – not even as a secretary or a receptionist! Imagine! [sarcasm, people!] Anyway, the thing is, the reverse reaction seemed to be shoving the example of “strong, independent, non-conformist female” at the reader. So: The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. It’s almost too obvious and too overdone to be effective. But I do think it appeals to the young female reader. Lockdown, however, has no female characters!
Second, there is still the romance element, which quite destroys the efforts to create the “strong, independent, non-conformist female” character. No matter how good an archer she is or how brave she might be, the female main character still has to have a romantic scenario to deal with. Which is drearily because of female authors writing female characters. There isn’t a stitch of romance in Lockdown. The male author wrote an all-male cast sans romance.
So, if we want to call these things “young adult” – let’s admit that the majority are for young women and there is not actually all that much that would appeal to a male audience. Now, sure, young men might want to read about “strong, independent, non-conformist female” characters and also a romantic scenario. However, Katniss and Triss can share the limelight with Bob and Jim, right?
Lockdown has no female characters. Lockdown is exceedingly graphic and uses a lot of disturbing imagery. Events are not “delicate” and “sensitive.” After all, it is a prison named Furnace – it isn’t supposed to be a rose garden. Nevertheless, there is emotion and morality and stuff like that – we don’t just have a pulp action novel here. There is depth here, which is a bit surprising. The characters cry. They react. They have emotions – they are not rigid, wooden bots. However, this is a story that is not for the faint of heart.
Which is the only bad thing about this novel: it is quite graphic and scary. As I read I was trying to imagine being a 14-year old reading this. I can see some parents (and even some kids) not wanting this to be read. It is not really a question of sheltering/over-protective, but rather, once an image is in the brain, it doesn’t always just fade away. And some of the images in here are a bit rough.
The story, though, is interesting and I love all the characters. Very realistic characters, with real-world reactions and opinions. A dash of sarcasm and wit. A definite depth in the exploration of actions-consequences and morality. It is all a bit predictable (after all, only so much can happen in prison), but being predictable does not mean the story is bad. I want to read the next book (and probably the rest of the series) because this first novel does not complete the tale, so to speak, and ends with a lot left hanging.