Author: Ana Carey
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: Eve #1
Other Reviews for This Author: None
Reading books involved with the book packager Alloy tends to be a very specific type of experience. You usually get a character-centric piece that focuses on how the characters deal with plot twists and other addictive factors to the work. The writing is usually great in tone if not in execution, and the books end up being the kind that appeal to teen readers because of their addictive quality. Eve is one of Alloy's latest projects, and I was interested to see how it would live up to series like Pretty Little Liars. I was also interested to see how debut author Anna Carey would appeal. I had my doubts about it as a dystopian - because I honestly can go either way with dystopian YA fiction - but it was hard to put down despite some issues with story execution.
Eve has always been at the top of her class. She's the valedictorian. The artist. When she goes off to the College, she'll make something of herself. She'll study painting with the best of them. She will provide a contribution to the society that no one else can. That's the goal of the girls at the School: to go on to college and to become someone that can help rebuild society via the City and all of its promising glory. Eve has trusted the School for so long. She has followed their rules, and has never spoken to a man or listened to a man since she arrived at the School as an orphan. Eve has only trusted the King, whose status makes him the only man that the girls at the School can trust.
A girl by the name of Arden ruins all of this for Eve. Arden is the rebellious one at the School. Eve speaks to her one night, shattering the School's fantasy for good. The girls don't really go off to College - they go off and become tools to repopulate the nation. Eve's status as valedictorian means nothing when it comes to artistry and creativity. The only way she's set-up to help the City is via her ability as a woman to produce children. Eve doesn't really believe Arden, but her curiosity gets the better of her. The shocking reality of what the College is destroys Eve's doubts, and her life at the School suddenly comes with a countdown - a horrifyingly morbid one.
Escape is the only option for Eve. She either becomes farmed for children or can risk the untamed worlds beyond the school. The world with desecrated roadways, crumbled buildings, and ruined people struggling to survive amid the chaos. Gangs and wild dogs lie beyond the walls that surround the School, too. There is also the possibility of running into men. Eve has no choice in the matter, and makes the struggle to escape from what has become a prison for her. She manages to get to the other side, but has no idea wait awaits for her. The world is harsh and unforgiving, and Eve's place in it is bigger than she could have ever imagined. Will she be able to survive, or will she break under the pressure and destruction of the untamed lands?
Readers will have a lot of trouble connecting to Eve. Out of everything in this novel, I think she's arguably the most difficult thing to accept. The dystopian premise is something one can shrug off as-needed, but Eve as a main character is a hard sell. She starts out quite ignorant and put-together because of her intelligence and artistry, but as soon as she goes out into the world, Eve is selfish. There is a much different aspect about Eve's personality prior to her leaving the School. She's not there for a long time, but one gets a sense that Eve has more of an idea that her selfish actions involve preservation, and that self-preservation can come at a cost. As Eve goes out into the world, though, her selfishness quickly morphs beyond its initial capacities. She makes decisions and performs actions without much of an idea as to their true effects on the world and the people she comes to know. I dealt with it in the beginning because of Eve's ignorance, but Eve's ignorance seems to prevail throughout most of the work. Her personality deals with some harsh lessons that don't seem to come with enough force until the end of the novel. The result is a character that's hard to stick with. The reader can sympathize with Eve for the abandoning of her initial view of the world, but they will find all of the lack of long-run thinking hard. It's built into her character in such a way that there is some reasoning behind why she is so distorted and unthinking in some instances, but the reward for sticking with her throughout the novel doesn't necessarily meet all of the reading required to get there. However, I did find it intriguing that Carey would go with a main character of this type for a dystopian - a genre which focuses on main characters like Arden more so than Eve - and am interested to see why she did so.
The other characters in the novel are much more interesting in how dynamic they are. Arden is a character that sticks with Eve throughout most of the work, and she has much more backbone and sense to her than Eve does. Arden is the type of character you love to read about in dystopian YA. She's tough and knows more about the world because she is observant and rebellious. Her character isn't new, but it's a character type that allows the protagonist to be less than ideal without ruining the reading of the story. In that sense, Arden functions as a good foil character and allows Eve to make her decisions without the reader completely losing the idea that some people in the book have sense. Caleb - a boy that appears in the wilds and helps the two frenemies - was much more interesting than I expected him to be. Yes, he is very much a YA hero and is mysterious and dark, but he also has a past that keeps the reader interested. He's tough and hardened because of the world around him. His characterization made sense. He also worked really well with Eve. The chemistry between the couple was quite understandable and read as a type of romance that felt fresh despite the usual components. In that regard, Eve felt above-par in the characterization. The romantic aspects worked for the novel and felt accurate. Eve became a tentative girl who wanted to explore beyond the brainwashing she always knew, and she turned to a semi-heroic figure in her life that she felt a connection to. The romantic scenes felt surprisingly sweet and tense.
Carey's writing surprisingly hits a lot of good notes with this debut novel. It's not without it's flaws in execution, but she captures a world that is interesting - if familiar - and gives the novel a tone that is hard to match. The world of Eve is extremely dark and desolate. It manages to convey a very strong idea of the future, though it is a very scary one as well. I loved how dark it was and how Carey tried to keep it simple. I understand that, on some level, it's very bland to just call things the City or the School, but on another level it makes things so much easier for me to process. I could see the world going back and reverting to an aloof simplicity to prevent itself from becoming so emotionally invested in its happenings. It makes sense, really, that we would want to distance ourselves from giving things names because of the fear of their imminent collapse. Going farther into the world building, one finds some pretty disturbing images that make for good reading. There's no expressing just how interested one gets when the realize that the world is so primal in how it is trying to repopulate itself after 98% of the population fell to a terrible disease. People would go to any number of lengths to do those types of terrible things, and it's a horrific but able way to garner control of at least one half of the population. Whether this stuff is realistic or not, I cannot say. Carey's writing puts you in the moment, and you don't find yourself questioning things because the scary stuff seems just real enough to make you feel like it makes sense.
There was an undertone to the book that I felt particularly invested in seeing towards the end, and I think it's worth mentioning because of how interesting it is. This book explores a lot of dystopian themes that deal with the placement of women in society and how it sort of reverts because of the dystopian/post-apocalyptic nature of the work. There is an immediate negative connotation attached to the usage of women as tools for making babies (thankfully), and as Eve escapes the theme of women and their role in the new society becomes more paralleled to the old way of things when Eve and Arden effectively become teachers and cooks to a band of boys who escaped from the work-camps made for male orphans. Eve becomes the female figure the boys put on a pedestal; the girl that teaches the young ones and encourages the sensitivity in a group of people that seemed in some ways like savages. This theme initially came off to me as troublesome, but as I read the book I felt there was more to it than this. The ending of the book takes things in a completely different direction based on where Eve ends up. It and her name suggest a new beginning of sorts to occur within the world, or at least with Eve. She escapes the traditional role that seems to follow her and ends up somewhere. I don't know how much of that was intentional and how much of that was just pure coincidence within the story, but it struck something within me as I was reading.
Readers will take to Eve with either addiction or revulsion. The protagonist strikes a strong chord with the reader, and the enticing nature of the world and its secondary characters may not be enough to lure readers back into the story if Eve repels them. My personal reading yielded some surprisingly intriguing aspects about the book, and I managed to like Eve enough by the ending to want to read the second book - especially because of the romance. This isn't a book for the reader focused on the scientific and social details of the dystopian, but a reader looking for a fun romance and a slower story pace my find a winner in Eve. Personally, it's a fun start to a series that I look forward to being addicted to.
Cover: This cover is very industry-standard right now. I love the background more so than the model. The fading and mist looks really cool with the title font. The model, however, I can live without.
Rating: 4.0 Stars
Copy: Received from publisher/publicist for review (Thank you, Heather and Harper Collins!)