Okay, let’s face it: bookstores have been flooded with dystopian books for teens ever since the release of The Hunger Games. Now, I don’t have a problem with that; I love the genre, after all, and who doesn’t want to read about suffering children? (What? Just me? Seriously? Okay then.) But with the flooding of the good comes the bad: repetitive, unknown-girl-becomes-super-special-resistance-leader-heroine plotlines and tired, overused hooks. (Seriously, if I read about one more love triangle…)
And that’s where Redemption by Elora Mitchell stands out.
Seventeen year old Agent 093762 (phew, that was a mouthful!) is advancing well in her job, moving up in rank and all, but then she’s injured in an explosion during one of their missions. When she’s rescued by a couple and returns to her city, she finds out that she’s been presumed dead… and that killing her, apparently, had been part of the mission.
Suddenly with nowhere to go and no one to trust, she makes a run for it. Up to this point in time, I was all, “Okay, that’s fair, I bet she joins with the resistance afterwards and ends up repenting for her sins and fighting against the city that betrayed her. That’s probably what her ‘redemption’ is going to be, right?”
I was dead wrong.
This book is about a war, but not the rebellion versus the totalitarian empire. There are no wise, old mentors or reluctant Chosen Ones here. But there is a girl who has done terrible things to other people during her time in the city, and her ongoing battle with who she was and what she wants to become. It’s about someone who’s coming to terms with her own humanity and her capacity for love, and her struggles against the backdrop of a cruel world forced into revealing the ugliest parts of humanity and, strangely enough, its most beautiful parts as well.
I really liked the refreshing take on the dystopian-lite books for teen readers. There’s no unknown teenager unwillingly thrust into the middle of a rebellion and becoming a leader: just someone struggling towards her future while trying to confront her ugly, horrible past. It’s about someone discovering life outside the city and the meaning of it all, and learning to care for and love people. It’s someone who’s seeing the good in people and the world, even after she’s seen and done the downright terrible herself.
I really appreciate Elora Mitchell’s attempt to come up with something different in an over-saturated genre within the YA book world. She also writes some scenes especially well, such as Agent 093762’s (we’ll call her Hope, from now on) interrogation at the hands of the city officials. It had just the right amount of rawness that I like, never shying away from the downright horrible parts (such as things to do with bodily functions and whatnot) and not holding back on how cruel interrogations can become.
I also like her first meeting with Logan; they don’t trust each other right away, which is realistic, given their backgrounds. Thus, I liked reading about the progress of their relationship.
But there’s still room for improvement, and it’s a huge one.
Despite my high hopes and despite me really wanting to love this book, there are several things that kept me from fully enjoying it.
I remember back when I was reading Les Miserables (one of my all-time favorite books) and getting to Fantine’s chapters. Despite me reading about her absolutely dreadful fate, I felt nothing for her. It took Anne Hathaway’s performance in the 2012 Les Miserables movie for me to actually feel any sense of empathy for her and yes, I totally cried during that performance.
That’s when I realized why I didn’t care about Fantine in the book. There was too much telling and not enough showing. Hugo was all “look at poor Fantine, look at what she’s going through! Don’t you feel sorry for her? You’re supposed to, because she has such a sad existence! Let me tell you again about how sad her life is and how sad you’re supposed to be feeling!”
And that’s what I felt while reading this book. I get that Hope has gone through many hardships, but do I really need to be told several times throughout the narration how sad and broken she is and how she will never be the same person again? I felt a lot of times that I’m being beaten over the head about how she’s feeling in that specific moment before she goes on having an actual breakdown. Oftentimes, I felt that the sudden breakdown was enough without the long paragraphs beforehand about her emotions: showing, in many instances, is so much better than telling.
There’s a lot of unnatural dialogue throughout the book that again relates to the whole telling rather than showing problem I’ve seen throughout Redemption. Unlike the sometimes aimless conversations in real life, dialogues in fiction should lead somewhere, definitely, but in a way that feels natural and not like some info dump to get the point across.
I also had problems with the time passing. There’s a part in the books where it takes Hope eight months to… what? Wake up? I wasn’t very clear about what happened then, honestly. Did she have an eight month period where she had amnesia? Was she unconscious for eight months? How could a person be unconscious for eight months without any form of life support?
And ah, yes, the ending. I appreciate Elora Mitchell’s boldness for ending it that way. Some books I absolutely love end that way. But even endings must have a purpose, and I’m afraid I’m not entirely sure what she was trying to say with the ending she chose for the book, especially one titled “Redemption.”
These things prevented me from fully enjoying Redemption that I thought was otherwise a piece of promising and refreshing YA literature from an indie author.
Still, I wouldn’t want to write it off anyone’s to-read lists just yet. This book has a lot of four to five star reviews on Goodreads, so you might end up enjoying it still. Plus there are a lot of great lines that feel like they came straight out of a Tony Robbins book (no disrespect; I love Tony Robbins) such as this:
“My actions show what i am, regardless of what was done to me. My circumstances are not responsible for what I become; I alone am responsible.”
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an alternate to unknown-turned-rebel-hero plotlines in dystopian books for teens. If you’re looking for something else, though, why not check out my list of Top 5 New Teen Book Releases for September 2016?
(Disclaimer: I was given a free copy by the author in exchange for an honest review!)
My rating: (2.5 / 5)
Are there any other dystopian books for teens that you’ve read? What did you think about it, and would you recommend it to anyone else? Share it in the comments below!