Friday, January 14, 2011

Grace by Elizabeth Scott

Grace has grown up among the People.  The People stand opposed to Keran Berj, and his control over all things, including the land.  The men of the People become Rorys, soldiers who fight Keran Berj's guard, and the women follow them from camp to camp.

Some girls, like Grace, are chosen to become Angels.  The Angels study the ways of those who live in the cities, and of Keran Berj, until they carry their bombs to the cities and die, destroying the enemies of the People with their death.  However, Grace, who had an outland mother, did not die as an Angel should, and now she is running from Berj's guard and a people who wish her dead.  Accompanied by a mysterious boy, she takes a train that will carry her beyond their reach.

While I am not a fan of Elizabeth Scott, I will concede that she knows how to convey a lot of information in a very little amount of space.   This book is exactly 200 pages,  and Scott doesn't waste a lot of time with setup or explanations.   In a way, I feel this is one of the weaknesses of the book, I would have liked a little more background about the People, and Keran Berj's dictatorship.   I would have particularly liked more information about the Angels, who are kept both sheltered and exposed to the outside world.  

Maybe I've read too much dystopian fiction, but nothing about this book felt particularly fresh or original to me.  Many of the major touchstones  in the book -- suicide bombers, children informing on parents, secret police -- felt as thought the were taken from other fiction.  Scott does combine these elements well, but the Orwellian overtones are impossible to ignore.

As for the plot, there wasn't much.  This is very much a character study.  What plot there was was flawed.  I don't think it held together all that well.  The major hole -- how did Grace, a girl of the People, know an underworld contact who could smuggle her out  -- is never addressed.  As most of the book is told in flashback, this bugged me throughout the narrative.  

Kerr, Grace's mysterious companion, has his own backstory, his own reasons for running.   For fear of spoilers, I won't reveal who Kerr is or why he wants to leave, but held up to the light, I'm not sure his story holds up.  

This is a fast read, and teens who are put off by the length of other dystopian stories might enjoy this book.  The lack of plot, and focus on characterization will turn off many reluctant readers.  

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