If you like young adult dystopian fiction, Possession by Elana Johnson is made up of a lot of the same ingredients of your current favorites. The agony of an arranged marriage love triangle a la Ally Condie's Matched. The physical discomfort around technology via Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey trilogy. The overreaching father figure as in Lauren DeStefano's Wither. The harrowing pursuit of teenage lovers by the law enforcement of a corrupt society as in Lauren Oliver's Delirium. The attempt at mass mind control like Beth Revis' Across the Universe. If you're a fan of any of these recent novels, you'll like Possession. However, instead of seamlessly blending all of these varied ingredients, this work comes across as half-baked.
Our heroine is Vi, a Lisbeth Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) kinda teen with short spiky hair and a rebellious attitude. Living in a highly sanctioned society, she is a notorious lawbreaker with over a dozen offenses on her rap sheet. When she's arrested for kissing her boyfriend Zenn in a public park, she ends up locked in a cell with Jag, a beefcake member of the burgeoning resistance movement. Vi feels an immediate connection to the bad boy and the two form an intense bond as they work together to break out of prison and escape the authorities.
The novel falters when Vi unconsciously explores Jag's mind through his dreams. Instead of designating the change in point-of-view through italics or a section header, it becomes unclear in places who is speaking through the narrative voice. It is only after reading through a couple of paragraphs that it becomes apparent that Vi has, in fact, yielded the floor to Jag.
I also wasn't a fan of the simplistic place names throughout the novel - the Badlands, the Goodgrounds, etc. The delineation between good and evil is dealt with in a more complex way in the actual prose, and the child-like designations take away from the book's inherent argument that all people are made up of both elements.
The crux of the novel surrounds Vi's conflicted relationship with her father. Is he seeking only to protect humanity by having a few gifted individuals control the minds of the rest of the population? Would the world suffer through another apocalypse if people were allowed to think for themselves? Do they need to be protected from their own selfish desires and fatalistic needs? Vi's fate lies in the balance. Should she choose duty and live a comfortable, approved life with Zenn, or an imminent death by following Jag into the ranks of the rebellion? Or will she sacrifice what she wants in order to save the one she ironically can't live without?
At just over 400 pages, Possession is a fast paced read that promises more installments in its impending saga. Science fiction fans will appreciate the technological complexity. Romance readers will yearn for more fully fleshed out male characters instead of Jag's one liners and Zenn's zombie-like stupor. Young adult enthusiasts will relate to the frictional dichotomy between Vi and her father. Dystopian voyeurs will feel fully acclimated in a reimagined world full of rules that are made to be broken.
Overall, a little something for everybody, but lacking a defined focus.
Possession by Elana Johnson is available for $17.99 at Amazon.com and at ElanaJohnson.com.
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