Thursday, July 07, 2011

Possession (YA)

Possession. Elana Johnson. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 416 pages.

Good girls don't walk with boys. Even if they're good boys--and Zenn is the best. 

Possession seems like the kind of book a dystopian-lover would love. But this one proved disappointing to me. The more I read, the more that disappointment grew. I'll try to explain.

It's one thing for a dystopian novel to throw the readers into a foreign world where they're unsure of the rules of the society and culture. But to leave readers confused for over 400 pages? To leave readers struggling to even make sense of the basic story structure? That's a big disappointment. As I said, it's one thing if there are a few missing pieces of the puzzle. The author could have done that on purpose, after all. The reader's confusion could be intentional. But I don't know if I believe that an author would intentionally confuse readers for hundreds of pages. (Well, yes, there's James Joyce and T.S. Eliot. But that's a different story.)

I believe that when you read a book, you should be able to turn the pages and know whose head your inside--who is doing the narrating, whose perspective you're seeing. Call me silly, but, that's just the way I am.

Violet, our heroine, has not been quite as obedient as she should have been. She has a way of unplugging from the messages the authorities send--to everybody--messages that tell them how to live, behave, conform, etc. The voices that 'manage' them. But even if she's not brainwashed--she's still capable of thinking for herself, for the most part, she's not extremely rebellious. She's not out to start a revolution, she's not out to break down the powers that be. She just wants to take a little walk with her match and best friend, Zenn. She just wants to have a little alone time now and then. Of course, that breaks the rules. But it hardly seems fair that such offenses would lead to prison either. But that is just what happens to Vi. In prison she meets another boy, Jag, and if labels are to be believed, he is "bad." But this 'bad boy' has a certain appeal and these two seem to share a common destiny, a common enemy. Once these two team up....well, that's when things get started.

The novel has an interesting premise: a mind-controlling government. And the novel has romance potential. Readers know from the start that Vi will at one point or another be called to choose between the boy from her past (Zenn) and the boy of the moment (Jag). Readers--for better or worse--know more about Jag than Zenn. But that isn't necessarily a horrible thing. Zenn is present for the novel, just not in a romantic, heroic way. And Jag, well, even though he's got hero potential. Well, he's not going to go out of his way to act like a ROMANTIC hero when bigger things are at stake. (I actually like that).

While I didn't fall for Jag myself, that is, I didn't find him swoon-worthy, I can see that Vi and Jag belong together. I think they deserve each other. Jag can get under Vi's skin and drive her crazy. And she can get under his skin and drive him crazy. The things she accuses Jag of, she's guilty of doing herself. And the things Jag accuses Vi of, well, he's just as guilty. If either were with a more honest person, there could be trouble. When these two fight--and they do fight--it's impossible to take sides. Because they're the pot and the kettle.

The ending. What can I say? Am I really more disappointed by the ending than I was the middle? It's not fair to say. I do think it's a bit open, a bit of a cliffhanger. If it is truly 'the end.' It is a LOT more open than most YA novels I read. (Which wouldn't be a bad thing.) If it's just trying to build up suspense for a book two, it's a bit annoying, but what else is to be expected these days? 

I didn't hate Vi. I didn't hate Jag. I didn't hate Zenn. I didn't hate the world Elana Johnson created. I really didn't feel strongly enough about it to hate it. Hate requires passion and energy. It's just that I didn't connect with them enough to "like" the novel. Readers are different. Some people love plot-driven or premise-driven novels. I tend to care more about the characters, to want a story to be character-driven. So there's a chance you might appreciate Possession more than I did.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Selina 11:52 AM  

I read a lot of mixed reviews about this book. Pity you did not enjoy this one!
I am still planning on reading it to see for myself what it is about. Thanks for the honest review!

Ash 12:14 PM  

A good and very honest review. I tend to have your taste in books so I'll probably skip this one. Thanks for the save, now I can focus on some books I've been dying to read.

~ The Tuckerbag ~

BookJunkie 1:56 PM  

I'm about halfway through this one, and have to say, I'm right there with you. I find myself with more questions every time I turn the page. Thanks for the review!

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