Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Safety in Numbers (YA)

No Safety in Numbers. Dayna Lorentz. 2012. Random House. Penguin. 288 pages. 

The back cover reads: "It's just another Saturday in a busy suburban mall. But not for long." The front cover reads: "Four teens, 150 stores, 1 bomb." I'm not sure which one is more effective as a hook for drawing readers in, what do you think?! Essentially this is a book about a mall that gets quarantined with all its shoppers "trapped" inside after one employee discovers a hidden bomb. The book covers, I believe, the first week. And by the end of the week, the novelty has definitely worn off.

You should definitely know that there is no ending, this is book one, and those who absolutely need an ending to be satisfied should wait until the release of the second book. Personally, as long as I know that before I begin a book, it doesn't bother me that much. It's only when I spend two or three hours of time anxiously expecting an ending only to be surprised by a big "to be continued" that I get annoyed.

Is No Safety in Numbers premise-driven or plot-driven? I think it is. I think the premise itself is big enough to drive the plot forward. That doesn't mean that the characters are flat, boring, and lifeless. It just means that they are not the strongest element of the book. We've got two male narrators: Marco, a busboy at a restaurant; Ryan, a football player whose integrity is flexible depending on who is around. And two female narrators: Lexi, the daughter of a Senator, a true computer nerd who spends her time making movies, working with graphics and computer programming instead of having "real" friends; and Shay, who spends half her time taking care of her younger sister, Preeti, and her grandmother, Nani, and the other half of her time talking with either Marco OR Ryan.

Each narrator manages to bring a handful of other characters into view. (Lexi spends time with Ginger and Maddie, two popular girls from her school whom she's never really spent any time whatsoever with until this crisis; Lexi also keeps in touch with her mother, the Senator, and her father; all three are "trapped" in the mall. Shay has her younger sister and grandmother. Ryan has at least two if not three football players to hang out with. Marco, poor Marco, well he occasionally gets to mention a cook, waiter, or manager.) But despite the fact that readers are told about all the thousands of people who are trapped in this quarantined mall, despite the fact that readers see these people mass together to riot on at least one or two occasions, I couldn't help but get a sense of emptiness and loneliness. At times it felt like there were only ten or twelve people in this gigantic mall.

There were times it felt believable enough, then again, there were other times it didn't. And sometimes these instances are where you would least expect them.

I have a hard time putting No Safety in Numbers into a 'perfect' genre. On the one hand, there is nothing in it to make it science fiction. The setting could be present day or a few years into the future. So it could be classified as realistic fiction. There is a sense of danger, of terror, that makes this a thriller, to a certain extent. But for readers looking for ACTION, they might not appreciate all the time spent making friends and forming relationships. They might not appreciate the surreal "first date" between Shay and Ryan, for example. And all the talk of feelings and loneliness and not belonging. And the poetry reading.

So did I like it? Yes. For the most part. I found it compelling, or compelling enough. In other words, I read it essentially in one afternoon. I did get caught up into the story.

Read No Safety in Numbers
  • If you like thrillers and suspense novels; this one does have some action, but it isn't exactly fast-paced action. There is danger to be avoided, a sense of terror, but it is more subtle, at least for the first half. 
  • If you like survival fiction

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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