First Lines: My mom gave me an old leather-bound journal for my seventeenth birthday. At first the blank pages surprised me, as if the story inside was lost or had slipped out. She explained sometimes the story is supposed to be missing because it’s still waiting to be written.
This book has been sitting on my to-read shelf for ages and I always kept it around because the rating is pretty high on Goodreads and the premise seemed interesting. And when I felt like reading a dystopian, this finally tripped my trigger. (…Is that like a weird colloquialism from where I’m from in the Midwest or do lots of people say that? I kind of feel a bit dorky for this whole parenthetical side note right now.)
In Maddie’s world, everything is done on computers. Finding friends, going to school or movies or concerts, dating. It’s all computerized. And Maddie’s ok with that, until she meets Justin. Justin is unlike anyone else Maddie’s ever met. He craves being around people, seeing them face to face. He thinks people aren’t meant to be alone. Suddenly, Maddie begins noticing the world around her and the feeling inside of her that Justin may be right. But with society and her parents telling her that this is wrong, Maddie’s going to have to learn how to stand up for herself if she’s going to be able to do anything about it.
This is one of those crazy sci-fi/dystopian novels that is like, freaky accurate. SERIOUSLY. I kept getting fricking goosebumps. This book was written nearly 5 years ago, and so much has started coming true since then. All that stuff that Maddie’s doing on computers is the same stuff we do now, just at a more extreme level. (Or maybe some of us are already there??) But the freakiest part of the whole book was how this huge push toward things like Digital School (a forced online school for anyone under 18) came out: a massive elementary school killing spree. While the one in the book was on an unfathomable level, I could not help but draw comparisons between that and Sandy Hook. And that happened a year after this book came out.
But the whole premise of this book is just scary real. People are getting addicted to technology. They would rather spend time chatting with friends online than actually going out and meeting new ones. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been out with people who can’t give up their phones for a dinner or a date or a concert or…anything. Maddie’s world is already starting to come true, and that’s frightening.
Moving past the delightful if frightening social commentary in this book, the characters were quite enthralling. Maddie has lived this sheltered life, but she’s always felt that something’s not quite right and that leads to a slightly rebellious nature that her parents attempt to squash. She’s smart and clever while still being curious about everything and caring. And Justin. He’s so driven and completely committed to his cause. He loves being around people and experiencing the world to the fullest. The best part is that he has this rather ironic weakness that I don’t want to spoil because it’s so worth discovering. I love irony.
The only slight drawback I had about this book is that it takes a long time to get the ball rolling. (Geez, I’m just full of euphemisms and colloquialisms today.) The plot was a bit slow in the beginning, but you kind of need that to understand Maddie’s world. But once it gets going, it’s fabulous. It moves very quickly after that and I was thoroughly invested and entertained.
Really lovely, even if it was freaky at times. It’s not very often I find a book that has as much social commentary as this in a YA novel. Definitely worth checking out.