Wow. I think I might be slightly obsessed with this book. I certainly can’t stop thinking about it. Seriously, I was thinking about it when I was working. I was thinking about it when I was volunteering, when I was driving, when I was eating dinner, and when I was sleeping. I am still thinking about it after I have finished it. And aren’t those the best books? The ones that stick with you and pull at you even when you think you are done?
I have an ARC courtesy of the wonderful, Eti, at In the Key of Books! Thankfully though it comes out in four days, so no one has much of a wait for it! And seriously, you should be waiting for it; it is that good!
I think what first drew me into the book was the pure terror. Reading it felt a bit like reading a Holocaust book, so it is not, I guess, for people who can’t deal with tough stuff. It starts with Ruby, the main character collapsing in a garden, unable to take the pain of a loud, torturous noise designed to make certain children reel over in pain. For certain children, the pain brings on lots of blood and unconsciousness, but for other children the pain is slightly less. But all children can suffer the noise, whereas adults don’t.
In Ruby’s world, most of the child population has actually already died to disease. And the rest of the child population has developed strange, supernatural abilities. Being only ten, and a rather sheltered ten, when disaster strikes, Ruby is completely unprepared for the aftermath of such a problem. Not that anyone can ever truly be prepared for being shipped to a concentrate camp.
All of the newly powered up children are bussed up to “rehabilitation camps.” There, they are sleep-deprived, starved, and worked under the constant scrutiny of PSF’s (kind of government assigned soldiers). They are not allowed to speak, to use their abilities, or do anything out of line. Doing so results in harsh punishments, where in the loud torture noises are the least of their worries. I can’t adequately describe the horror that is the camp Ruby is staying in. And on top of Ruby having some major falling out with her parents before she went to camp, she also has to hide who she is from everyone.
So the noise I keep talking about actually isn’t that important, but it helps me describe things, so I’m going with it. The noise was meant specifically for children with the strongest supernatural abilities, for children like Ruby. Kids are classified as they come in, by color. And it is clear from some simple observation skills that Ruby does not want herself classified with the reds, oranges, or yellows. Because of her abilities, she is able to convince the person assigning her to her cabin that she is a green. And because no one is allowed to ever use their powers, Ruby lives six years at this camp, no one the wiser.
She’s actually an orange, the most dangerous type of kid. Oranges have the ability to read people’s minds and force people to follow their will, via mind control. It’s the reason Ruby is always afraid of accidentally touching anyone because she knows the hard way that a touch can lead to terrible things. She purposely doesn’t try to make any friends, and has already lost her best friend due to a mistake on her part.
On the day Ruby faints in the garden, she is “rescued.” It seems as though the camp is testing all the children to make sure there are no more reds, oranges, and yellows, who by this point have all disappeared. At first they were experimented on, but all the kids at camp seem in agreement that there are no more reds, oranges, and yellows. Ruby is given a note and some pills and ends up escaping with her doctor who wakes her up after her collapse. Her doctor actually works for an anti-government organization that wants to end rehabilitation camps. Unfortunately though, Ruby discovers (by accidentally reading the doctor’s boyfriends’ mind) that the organization is also interested in using children as weapons and they don’t mind murdering people or children who get in their way.
She then escapes the antigovernment group and accidentally stumbles upon a group of kids who are in the middle of an epic escape of their own. Liam, Chubs, and Zu quickly (though a little reluctantly) take Ruby under their wing. And Ruby thinks it wise that they continue to think she is a green. As the story progresses, it also becomes clearer and clearer how messed up the world is, outside of the awful camps. It also becomes harder and harder to love little Zu, a little girl whose voice seems to have been taken from her, and not hug or touch her. And well, Liam keeps proving to be the guy of Ruby’s dreams. And she has to constantly remind herself not to reach out for him. She even wishes to hug the criticizing Chubs at times, but always backs off.
And together, the four of them outrun PSF’s, kidnappers, anti-government agencies, gangs of other escaped children, and try to survive long enough to find East River. East River is supposed to be a safe haven for kids, a place for kids to reconnect with loved ones if they want to. However, nothing is as it seems. And while Ruby is getting closer and closer to her amazing new friends (who keep saving each others’ lives), she has to work harder and harder to keep her ability in check because she does not want a repeat of what happened with her parents. There’s also the issue of deciding where she stands when all sides pretty much either want to shut her down or use her.
This book is full of torture, abused children, heartache, and suffering. It will pull at your heart-strings, learning each of these four kids’ stories. And most of all Ruby’s story might even put you to tears. There’s also amazing chase scenes, stolen cars, telekinetic battles, mind control show downs, a smidgen of romance, and lots and lots of politics. This book was kind of like a mixture of Unwind by Neal Shusterman and Divergent by Veronica Roth. And can there be a better mixture?
I was on the edge of my seat for the whole thing! There’s a scene where Ruby realizes the extent of her abilities and is able to turn a bad guy away just by telling them to go away, and this one scene was just so powerful! The extent to which all of the children in this world have suffered is astronomical. Seeing a little bit of happiness at East River was kind of like getting to the colored part of the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Happiness does exist?
I love, love, loved Liam, Zu, and Chubs. They were a team that only formed because of severe circumstances, but resulted in pure camaraderie magic. All of the scenes of them on the road, running for their lives, and trying to track down this one kid’s father were just pure magic to read. And then there’s Ruby, a girl who has lost everything, who has worked for years trying to blend in and not say a word, coming out of her protective bubble. When she decides to learn how to control her abilities, I literally fist-bumped the air…It’s also filled with amazing Watership Down references and great, witty dialog.
This is seriously one of the best dystopias I have read in a long time (since maybe Divergent). It moved me in so many ways. It had me crying one moment and laughing the next. The decisions Ruby has to continue to make to survive are so terrible and heart wrenching. I am dying for book two to come out. This definitely gets a 10/10 from me.