Article published on January 30, 2012.
Ever since the detonations the world has been split in two. There are those who were singled out for safety before disaster struck. They were taken to the Dome where they still live, safe, secluded and Pure; unblemished by the devastation that destroyed the rest of the world. Outside live those who weren’t deemed good enough to be saved. They were out in the open when the detonations shook the world and those that didn’t die are now maimed and fused with objects they happened to be holding or were close to at the time of the blasts.
Pressia is one of those who live outside, struggling to stay alive and fearing her sixteenth birthday. Once she’s 16 she will have to leave her grandfather, her only surviving relative, and report for duty. Either she’ll be trained to be a soldier, or if she’s deemed too weak, she’ll be turned into prey, to be hunted down and killed. Although life is bleak and dangerous Pressia hangs on to vague memories and stories about life before the destruction and believes the message that came from the Dome at the time: “We know you are here, our brothers and sisters. We will, one day emerge from the Dome to join you in peace. For now we watch from afar, benevolently.” Others are not so sure that the Dome has any benevolent intentions.
Inside the Dome Partridge has lived a life of privilege. With his father being a very powerful figure in the Dome’s organization, he has had little to worry about, except that his mother is dead and his brother has recently killed himself. And Partridge knows he’s different from the other kids in the Dome. Somehow the programmes that exist to enhance male teenagers in the Dome don’t work on Partridge, and this may be the result of something her mother did before he was moved into the Dome. When Partridge discovers that his mother may still be alive he decides to escape the Dome, find his mother and maybe also the truth.
Soon Pressia and Partridge meet each other in the dangerous world outside the Dome and both of them will have to face truths that upset everything they ever held true and stare death in the face on more than one occasion, because both of them are central to the future of the world they live in.
This is an imaginative dystopian novel. The Post-apocalyptic world described sounds extremely realistic and is portrayed in vivid pictures that are all too easy to imagine. Both Pressia and Partridge are fully formed characters. They aren’t super-human heroes rather than scared youngsters trying to figure out what is going on around them and how to best deal with it. The same is true for the characters they interact with, all are well-rounded and multifaceted which makes them real to the reader and fascinating to read about.
The same can be said for the story as a whole. There are multiple layers to the story, only a few of which are actually revealed in this first installment. Other discoveries, still to be made, are only hinted at, and I’m sure there are more that are still completely hidden from the reader.
Julianna Baggott succeeds in drawing the reader into her frightening world and make them care about those who live there, their well-being and future. Some writers have it in them to create a new reality on the pages of a book, and Baggott is one of those. She has created a world and characters I care about and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel to this book in the future, although I’m well aware that I will have a long wait ahead of me.
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