Set in a not-so-distant war-torn future, Louisa and her best friend Maddie have been accepted into an elite boarding school. For Louisa, Country Manor School is a dream. She loves the survival skills classes and challenging weekend campouts. Maddie is less enthusiastic and feels uncomfortable with the school’s strict rules – namely zero contact with the outside world. Is there something strange about the school or is the staff just protecting the girls?
Dystopia fiction has hit the middle grade/tween market in a big way – particularly this light and fluffy variety which seems designed specifically for those kids whose parents won’t let them read the grittier The Hunger Games. I found it a little dull and plodding and I kind of couldn’t wait to be done with it almost as soon as we started. I found Louisa to be a fairly irritating and dimwitted narrator. The present tense narrative, which was executed to near perfection in The Hunger Games, doesn’t work well here. And, finally, the cliffhanger ending felt a bit cheap.
All that said, I still think it will be a hit with its intended audience. Izzy liked it and I wouldn’t be surprised if she reads the sequels on her own. I gather each installment is told from a different girl’s perspective – which I admit intrigues me a bit. I’ll be interested to hear what Izzy thinks if she does continue.
Similar youth dystopia series to consider if your kid isn’t quite ready for The Hunger Games…
The Selection – A series about a reality tv competition in which the prince (of a future war-torn America) selects his future bride. I’ve heard it described as The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, but comparing it to the latter is a bit of a stretch. The first book ends on an aforementioned cheap cliffhanger….and I totally fell for it. I actually read the first three in the series and then stalled out because I just didn’t care about any of the characters anymore. Ultimately, it was shallow, but harmless, and I could see a lot of tweens digging it pretty hard. There are five books in the series plus a few extra prequels.
Divergent – Set in a future in which all of the population is divided into factions based human virtues/personality traits and those who don’t conform to one faction are considered…DIVERGENT! I actually *loathed* the first installment and didn’t continue the series – don’t get me started! But to be fair it’s an incredibly popular series and was even adapted into a popular movie franchise so what do I know? This is a trilogy with a fourth volume of short stories.
City of Ember – Set in a post-apocalyptic future in which the remaining humans live in an underground city that is starting to lose electricity. I found this to be a bit more elevated than the others in terms of depth and quality. The world building is tighter and the characters are more complex. This series includes four installments (one of which is a prequel).
The Underland Chronicles – Perhaps not strictly dystopia as it actually features an alternate and somewhat fantastical underground world that exists alongside our own, but it is fantastic! I think this is the absolute best of all and, no wonder as it was authored by Suzanne Collins – what a difference a truly skilled writer makes! I’ve read all five in this series and I wouldn’t mind reading them all over again! Sadly, I’ve never been able to entice Izzy. I think she’s far to grossed out by the idea of giant cockroaches and rats!