What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.
Okay, I will admit that I resisted reading this book. I love dystopia, but I feel like we’re at a saturation point in the genre. How different can they all be at this point, you know? But finally, I gave in to a suggestion by my friend Beth, and I loved this novel. I was sucked right in by Day watching his family in the beginning. I knew right off that June would annoy me a bit, because she’s super intelligent, but she was conditioned as she was raised to be a good little soldier. I think she’s supposed to annoy you at first. She makes disparaging comments about beggars and generally acts like a snob. This is understandable, given her background, and I could forgive her for it at first, but I was afraid that it would really annoy me after awhile. (This never happened though. I loved June throughout, which is rare for a heroine.) I’m almost always on the side of the rebel at first. DOWN WITH THE MAN and all that. I liked Tess right off the bat too.
The first thing that really struck me about this new world is how elaborate the funerals are. I would say elaborate is too kind a word. It’s more like excessive, ostentatious, gaudy, all those synonyms. Who wears a freaking white corseted dress to their brother’s funeral? No one, that’s who, unless you live in June’s Republic. We soon realize that June is fully indoctrinated while Day is her exact opposite. Both are extremists, which means that neither of them are entirely right in their beliefs. To June, Day is a terrorist, but to Tess, Day is a freedom fighter. To Day, June is just another faceless, heartless government agent. Day sees the world in black to June’s white, but they’ll soon discover shades of gray.
There’s a plague in the Republic, and while there is a cure, there isn’t enough of it. Day spends this whole novel trying to save his little brother from the plague, and we learn through June that there are vaccinations for the rich. Dystopia indeed. June is undercover for the government, searching for Day in the poorest sectors, and when they meet, all I could feel was dread. This is going to be horrible, I thought. I couldn’t help anticipating the moment when June discovers who Day really is, because, in this kind of situation, it is always bad. June catches on so quickly too, which made me happy. She’s incredibly smart and militarily trained, of course she figures it out right away. It’s sort of heartbreaking the way she sells Day out, because she sells out his family, too. I wanted to hate her for this, for destroying a family as vengeance for her own, but I didn’t. If someone killed my brother in this kind of situation, I think I’d want vengeance too. It’s here, however, that I started to suspect that June was being used. Her “authority” means nothing. She realizes it, too.
And she’s growing. Whereas before, when she’s coming back from school with her brother, she says something like, “Can’t the beggars stay a little farther away from our vehicle?” and acts like a spoiled rich girl, June is now realizing the excess of her class. She’s wearing a dress covered in diamonds, and she thinks, “This dress could’ve bought a kid in the slum sectors several months’ worth of food.” She’s waking up, and this is a process I love to see. Lu does a great job of making the process painful for June and believable to us, the readers. And then the riots start, and we get a taste of what this Republic is really like. Earlier in the novel, they tell us the Pledge of Allegiance has been changed. ”Liberty and justice for all” have been removed, and we see how true that is. It sort of amazes me how dystopian dictators (minus President Snow) don’t get the idea of martyrdom because that is exactly what they turn Day into.
I just want to repeat most other reviews I’ve seen of this novel: the font color/size change when the POV switches to Day is horrible. It was distracting and hard to read and it took me out of the story more than once at the beginning. This novel doesn’t have traditional chapters, so this may have seemed like an innovative way of splitting the narrative, but it was just annoying. I got used to it eventually, but it looked really ugly on my Kindle. Otherwise, I loved this novel. I could forgive the inconsistencies and suspend my disbelief because these characters felt real to me. The love story is hardly a love story, which I like in dystopia. Who has time to moon around over some boy when there’s an evil government to overthrow? No one, not June, but it’s still there. It’s the beginning of something, and I can’t wait to find out more. If you like dystopia, evil governments, and badass heroines, give this one a try.