Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: Half Lives by Sara Grant

I learned that surviving isn't all it's cracked up to be. If you survive, you've got to live with the guilt, and that's more difficult than looking someone in the eye and pulling the trigger. Trust me. I've done both. Killing takes a twitch of the finger. Absolution takes several lifetimes.
Seventeen-year-old Icie's parents have given her $10,000 in cash, a map of a top-secret bunker, and instructions to get there by any means necessary. They have news of an imminent viral attack and know that the bunker is Icie's only hope for survival. Along with three other teens, she lives locked away for months, not knowing what's happening in the outside world or who has survived. And are they safe in the bunker after all?
Generations in the future, a mysterious cult worships the very mountain where Icie's secret bunker was built. They never leave the mountain, they're ruled by a teenager...and they have surprising ties to Icie.
This high-stakes, original, and thought-provoking adventure from Sara Grant follows two unlikely heroes, hundreds of years apart, as they fight to survive.

Thank you HBG Canada for providing an ARC of Half Lives!

When my sister forwarded an email to me with the books available from HBG this summer, I almost didn't pick this book. Just buy reading the first 70% of the description, I was already in the "Oh-no-not-another-post-apocalyptic-novel-in-which-a-secret-was-discovered" mood. But praise the writing gods (and Sara Grant), this story has more to it than just that. It skips forward in generations and also tells the story of a future cult. Now, that is the kind of kick I was waiting for. What's even better was Ms. Grant's choice of not simply writing a story from the future perspective, because then, another dystopian story would have been born. The concept of this book is new and adventurous, not to mention the cross-generation storytelling was well executed.

Thanks to Sara, the present and the future can finally live in harmony! (And no Fire Nation jokes in the comments please.)[ description (hide spoiler)]

When a story involves a future religious cult, one would perceive that as a serious matter - and it is. But kudos to Sara Grant for bringing in humour in her story. I mean, come on, the leader of this religious group is a teenage boy. He has bound to make some mistakes, right? I think my favourite aspect of this book has to do with the misinterpretations of Icie's story. Her story has been misunderstood by those in the future and when the reader first arrive at the future perspective, expect to be a little confused. Their words have evolved and the thing we once knew can be unknown to them. So when they all begin to chant: "Whatever! Whatever! Whatever!" don't put down the book and walk away. That disjointed feeling is the beauty of this book.

I'm still undecided as to which perspective I enjoyed more. Both had their pros and cons, and both had moments where I can and can't connect with. These present day characters are not who I usually connect to but I thought they were written very realistically. I feel like the jokes they tell and their view on life is pretty close to those of real teens. The character in the future are more of the voices I am accustomed to; these characters appear a lot in other post-apocalyptic novels, so they are a bit clich├ęd. But because the plot was so interesting, these characters didn't bother me.

So overall, this book was unexpected, humorous and thought-provoking.
I will link the article Sara Grant speaks of in the Author's Note right here. It is the inspiration to this book and I think it's a neat read.

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