The story is set in the future, during a time period where almost every job has been replaced by robots. Not too unusual a scenario, but even if this makes it familiar, it also makes it easy to relate to. When a batch of kids fresh from high school end up as the Permanently Unemployed, you're sitting right there thinking, "Well great! We get to stay in one place, with this amount of money, for the REST of our BORING lives! Wonderful!" It's enough to play on the emotions of any self-respecting individual! And then, (Warning, corny line coming up) everything changes when they get introduced to The Game. Since that itself is a spoiler, I won't tell you what it is. *Smiles* However! It's enough to get these kids crazy involved with it, since heck! ANYTHING is better than this slum life they're FORCED to live because the entire Government has them in lock-down until they DIE. You get this enormous sense of the unfairness of this corrupt, slowly degrading world, and you feel even worse because you know that there's not a stinking thing you can do about it. It brings about a vivid feeling of imprisonment in not just these kids, freshly raised with all this knowledge! And now no where to use it...but in the reader as well.
And speaking of the kids! These characters are AWESOME. They're so smart and they work so well together, and even when they have fights and disagreements, you GET what they're going through, because you would probably feel the same way if you were in their shoes! Plus, the main character, Lisse? She's awesome. She comes off as such a quiet type, but she has her moments of speaking out and stating her thoughts aloud (as well as in narrative, which is really great to read) and mingling them with those of her friends. What Monica does is takes all these different people and uses them to create every single side of the argument possible, and you feel so easily bounced back from one to the other that you don't even mind when you're not quite sure who's speaking, because what they say makes so much SENSE. It's a book that plays on your emotions more than anything, and it's a great ride. Because it's also fun! You've got a lot of seriousness in it, but the bond of this band of teenagers is so tight that everything you go through feels...well, normal! And not in the boring normal way either, but in the way that makes you feel like you're right in there with them, going through the same things they are. It's a great way of being carried along in the story, and I know that if you don't agree with one of the characters, you'll find yourself echoing the thoughts and words of one of the others. That's what Lisse's job is throughout the book. She's the one that we get to relate to, and who sets the scene for us. It's because of her that our emotions begin to fuse with those of the people around us in the story, since we're seeing it from Lisse's point of view. And that's the key to really enjoying this book! Because we get to know Lisse's thoughts, it evokes in us a lot of corresponding ideas until we're just as deep in as the rest of them.
Plus, this book's got that GREAT twist at the end. Considering it's such an EASY book to fall into, and it really does carry that sense of normality and relate-ability to it, when you get thrown for that big loop at the end, you're just as stunned as the rest of them. In my opinion, that's what makes this such a great and really fun book to read! You know it's Sci-Fi and Dystopian, but you forget all that in the fact that it's also really, really, really personal! Monica Hughes herself said it in the book! It's about the subtlety of the story. You get so drawn in, you can conceive of the situation they're in with the government and living situations, because it's something that CAN happen to OUR world and US. And because of that, when you DO get the twist at the end, you're shocked! Because after everything being so easy to relate to, you've suddenly been thrown a curve ball you couldn't have seen coming if you were as involved with the characters and their thoughts as I was! And sure, you probably could figure it out, but that's not the magic of this book. Its true wonder is revealed when you give up your own thoughts and just get captured in the book itself, in the characters and in their thoughts and arguments. When you flow right along with them, when you go through their troubles and their attempts to survive and learn, you get so into their situation that the ending does take you by surprise and it's AWESOME for it!
This is truly a great story. Simple and fun, easy to read and filled with enjoyable, intelligent characters of all kinds! It's the kind of story you like to pick up and read because it's just a blast to be taken along for the ride! I would recommend this story definitely for the Sci-Fi minded Dystopian lovers. It's not top-full of one over the other, but it's a great story to read just for enjoyment's sake! And it's so easy to read and enjoy that I don't see why anyone shouldn't read it! Go on and have some fun! It's worth the trip if you're willing to let loose and let the story take you. Try it out! I hope you'll be amazed! Maybe that's just the child in me though? It's definitely not over-complex, and it's also a typical middle-school book I'd say. But there's nothing wrong with enjoying a simple read for the sake of enjoyment itself. *Smiles* I think if you have an open mind, and read this book seeking to enjoy it, you will. And that's a good enough reason to pick it up and try!