Book Review: Revolution 19

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I love YA (young adult) sci-fi and dystopian books and blaze through them on a regular basis. I’m always on the lookout for another great YA read along the lines of Hunger Games, the Delirium series, Starters, etc.

Revolution 19 looked like a great new title (just look at that beautiful cover with the eye implant!) and the book description sounded intriguing and interesting enough for me, an adult, to want to pursue. I jumped at the chance to snag an ARC (advance reader copy) and promptly sat down to devour what promised to be such an interesting story. Instead I had to force myself to finish it (a rarity for me!). It’s what my husband and I call a “Wesley Crusher” story (if you remember the young man on Star Trek Enterprise who would amazingly save the day when all the brilliant adults around him couldn’t) where the dumb kids save the stupid grown-ups and everything is fluffy and unbelievable along the way. Maybe whomever wrote the book jacket should have written the story. All of the great writing ends there.

Before I eviscerate the book, let me say upfront that the 10 year old in me liked it. Although I think this book is marketed at the YA audience, after reading it, I’d throw it into the very lowest age range of that category, specifically tweens or younger. If I was a kid and I didn’t pick apart books yet (or expect much from them) and just want a fast paced story where the kids win and nothing is really scary (although we’ll pretend it is) and I wasn’t going to notice inconsistencies…then this books is perfect. If I was ten I’d give this book 5 enthusiastic stars and would be itching for the movie to come out. In fact, if they ever do make a movie out of this, it’s one of the rare cases where I think the movie would be much better than the book.

Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to tear the book apart. The story centers around a group of teens varying in age: Nick 17, Kevin 13 (almost 14!) , Cass 15 and later Lexi and some others. Although we have some older teens featured, they all feel flat and much younger. Nick, his brother Keven and their adopted sister Cass live in the wilderness to hide from the robots who’ve apparently turned on humanity and are rumored to enslave people in the cities. The first problem I had is that the community seems fairly well established and somehow the robots don’t discover them (even though they throw out small bits of tech called chaff that people might pick up and take back to their camps for the purpose of locating them). In a bit you find out that the wilderness area turns out to be within walking distance of a city filled with robots. The robots are smart enough to run a city, enslave humans (as the rumor goes) and yet they can’t find these pockets of people living within 2-3 days walking distance. Hmm.

After an attack by the robots (well I guess they found them after all!) the 3 siblings are left to fend for themselves in the woods when their parents don’t show up at a designated “safe” area. The kids decide that must be due to the fact that their parents must have been captured by the robots and so they make the next logical decision – they must go into the city to save them!

The very first part of the story wasn’t so grating. It had an interesting premise and I was still in the mode of giving the characters time to be fleshed out. However, right after the robots attacked, it started falling apart with juvenile, magically perfect scenarios that will appeal to younger readers but not the teens I think it was intended for.

The teens end up in the city and things aren’t as they expected them to be. Humans are living peacefully alongside the robots. Things don’t seem right…Ah, here is an opportunity for the book to redeem itself, as this new development could have been eery and interesting. Sorry to disappoint. The kids end up in a cafeteria and since they were hungry, decided to order food, nevermind they’ve never been in a cafeteria or restaurant before.
“Oh my G*d,” said Kevin, looking through the menu. “You can get anything you want here.”….”Chicken or steak or pizza or hot dogs or French fries….”

Hold on a sec. Here you have kids raised in the wilds who have never known anything but living in the forest and somehow they know what steak, pizza, hot dogs and French fries are?

They meet a girl (Lexi) who basically saves them rears after realizing they are “freemen”…complete with providing a disguise of a hat and sunglasses! From there they have all sorts of adventures like learning about the reeducation centers (another chance at being interesting but nope), getting fake chip implants, going to school (for one day) and so on.

It’s so amazing how they also run into their parents and how these country bumpkins manage to think up an amazing (I’m being sarcastic) tech solution to defeating the robots! Wow! With all the intelligent adults living in the city, you’d think someone would have thought of that before! I won’t spoil what happens. It’s not really all that exciting though. Unless you’re ten. 😉 It’s certainly not the “REVOLUTION” I had envisioned.

In the meantime we have a very juvenile romance (well not quite that but…they do have to slip a kiss in there don’t they?) where one kiss is exchanged but there is no real relationship or anything complex. It felt like it was thrown in there for the twelve year olds.

The robots themselves (Peteys….such a scary name) are basically floating boxes with slits in their faces and lasers that shoot people. At the reeducation center there are robots that look more human…and even seem to sound human at times (another glimmer of hope that things might get good but no…).

I hate to tear this book apart because there WERE moments that were interesting or had a huge amount of potential. However, as a whole it was predictable, juvenile and unbelievable. I think the best part of the book was the very end in the epilogue!! Now that was interesting and perked my interested up again. Too bad it was only a few pages long and it certainly wasn’t worth wading through the rest for! I wish that last element had been developed more somewhere in the story.

So, if you are an adult looking for your next YA fix, I’d not recommend Revolution. However, if you have a younger child into sci-fi or dystopians, Revolution might be a winner. It’s fast paced and pretends at being scary which might appeal to a younger tween not ready for a darker or more involved read.

Having said that, I’ll now give the “mom” part of my review and mention any potential items of concern. The first is the cussing. There are quite a few instances and variations of d*mn as well as hell, God’s name taken in vain, & bastard. There is one instance of kissing with mention of a girl’s body pressed into the boy’s chest. One of the characters suggests Cass draw a nude (she is going to exchange artwork, which is illegal, for the insertion of fake chips that would allow them to integrate into some parts of society) and there is mention of “homebrew” and pretending to be drunk in order to draw the attention of the bots.

Compared to some of the YA drek out there right now (like Beta), Revolution 19 is quite tame by comparison.

Quick summary: I was very disappointed with Revolution 19. I felt like the beautiful cover was misleading (there is a girl with an implant featured on the cover and that is not the case in the book) and the book description didn’t convey how bubble-gummy the story was going to be. While I think it could be a hit with younger kids, I don’t think it will resonate with older readers, even the ones in the intended age group. The ending was enough to tempt me to read a sequel, should one come out, but only because that’s the only part of the book fleshed out a small glimmer of great sci-fi promise. The rest of the book was simply a kiddie-romp that didn’t flesh out its beautiful grown-up package.

Note: I received a free ARC copy in exchange for my honest review.

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