Published by Clarion Books on February 16, 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Source: Amazon Vine
Sixteen-year-old Lyla lives in a bleak, controlling society where only the brightest and most favored students succeed. When she is caught buying cheats in an underground shadow market, she is tattooed—marked—as a criminal. Then she is offered redemption and she jumps at the chance . . . but it comes at a cost. Doing what is right means betraying the boy she has come to love, and, perhaps, losing even more than she thought possible. Graphic novel–style vignettes revealing the history of this world provide Lyla with guidance and clues to a possible way out of the double bind she finds herself in.
I finished MARKED about a few hours ago and I have almost no clue what I read. While the beginning is good, after Lyla’s Marking, the book meandered into “what the heck is going on here” territory for me.
To start, there’s a serious lack of worldbuilding. There are a few snippets of background information in the comic strip illustrations, but I had real trouble understanding Lyla’s world. Why do people live in primitive conditions, starving and freezing? What is Protean? I guess Protean was supposed to be some sort of energy superpower, but if society has it, why does most of the town not even have running water? It’s that sort of thing, especially when there’s no explanation, that keeps me from getting into a YA dystopia.
Second, there’s so much other confusing stuff. Much of the slang the characters use isn’t given any English equivalent. What’s slagging? Where did Merde come from? Miner’s Cough seemed like it would be important, but nothing came of it. There was a lack of a bigger plot. Lyla just kind of ran around with a pack of kids, trying to be a spy. Also, because of that lack of worldbuilding, I didn’t really know why the Red Fist was fighting against the establishment, or why it had become a gang of bullies.
Third, the ending was very open. I personally don’t like such open endings, especially with MARKED being a standalone. After so much buildup about Lyla deciding who to trust and what to do, I wanted to know what happened to her.
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