Author: Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? Wasteland Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, Post-Apocalyptic
Page Count: 352
Rating: [1/5 stars]
Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants —- hermaphroditic outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin. (summary from goodreads)
I don’t like to start a review out by being negative, but I just don’t have very many good things to say about WASTELAND. If I hadn’t been reading it to review, I probably would not have finished the book. Well, there is one plus — WASTELAND is a fast read.
WASTELANDis supposed to be a post-apocalyptic thrill ride. And I thought the idea was very cool and appropriately dark: A world where no one over 19 lives. A world where there are hermaphroditic “variants” who pick what sex they want to be. A world where kids scavenge for supplies amongst the wreckage of … something.
Yeah, something. There was almost no world-building in WASTELAND, which is probably my biggest complaint with the book. When an author creates a world where basic survival is a struggle, they need to explain, or at least give some clues as to what happened to create that world. I had a long list of questions by the end of the book; one other reason I kept reading was to see if any of them would be answered. Nope.
Some of my questions:
–What caused the harsh living conditions (extreme heat, no safe water sources, etc.)?
–Why does everyone die at the age of 19? A mysterious plague is mentioned, but there are no other details.
–Who taught Sarah to read? If it was her and Esther’s parents, what happened to them?
–What was the point of making the variants hermaphrodites? Their origin wasn’t explained, so it felt more like a gimmick than anything serious.
–If kids mate at 14-15, have their own kids at a year or two later, and then die at 19, who takes care of the children?
And so on.
Esther, the main character, was so-so. I finished the book a few days ago and honestly don’t remember much about her. She doesn’t fit in with the rest of the denizens of Prin. Instead of doing her assigned job, she prefers to buck the rules and play with her variant friend on the outskirts of town. She’s irresponsible and doesn’t know how to take care of herself, not even how to make the simple flatbread that people live on. I did like that she realized she couldn’t take care of herself.
She grows a little over the course of the book, most notably when Caleb comes to town. Inevitably, a romance springs up between them, one I had an impossible time believing. Days after meeting, they’re ready to mate. I do have to give the authors credit for trying to include some sex in a YA book, since so often that’s glossed over or ignored, but … the descriptions of it were so clinical, without any real passion. The descriptions of kissing were just as bad.
One more thing. WASTELAND is written in third person point of view, but has a serious case of head-jumping. Sometimes I wasn’t sure which character’s perspective I was reading, which didn’t make for an easy flowing book. There was even a scene from a character that didn’t have a name, just “the boy.”
WASTELAND is the first book in a trilogy. One last good point for the book is that it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. The story is resolved, and I’m not sure where the authors would take it in two more books. I doubt I will be back to find out, because of how disappointed I was with my read of WASTELAND. There are much better post-apocalyptic thrillers out there.