Monday, July 21, 2014

YA Review: Replica

Look a review!! Shhh, don't spook it ;)

Replica by Jenna Black

Published: July 16th 2013 by Tor
Genre: YA Science Fiction, specifically Dystopian
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 368
Part of a series? Book 1 of the Replica Trilogy. The second book came out in March and the third will be out in November.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake comes from a high-class Executive family in the Corporate States. Her marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in her state, which means she lives a life of privilege but also of public scrutiny, followed everywhere by photographers, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image — no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathan Hayes is the heir of Paxco — controller of the former state of New York, and creator of human replication technology, science that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Though Nadia and Nate aren’t in love, they’ve grown up close, and they (and the world) are happy enough with their match.

Until Nate turns up dead, and as far as everyone knows, Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory backup, he doesn’t know what killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

Review: I've only read one of Jenna Black's adult books, so I was sort of going into this one not knowing anything besides reading the back at the library. I also read most of this while completely stoned on knock-off Sudafed because my sinuses were killing me. (You can imagine how tidy my book-notes are.) Possibly partly because of that, Replica was a bit hard for me to get into at first. I actually considered doing the 50-page test, but the fact that I was stoned out of my mind by that point and didn't feel like standing up because I got wobbly every time I did really helped matters immensely!

No, in all seriousness, it took me until about 100 pages in to really get invested in things. It didn't seem like things really kicked up until around then, too. When they did, I did end up really wanting to know what would happen, and especially who killed Nate. (Which by the way literally happens in the second chapter. Not a spoiler.) While I had some trouble getting into it, I was glad I did. By the ends of things, I was satisfied that I'd read it and with how it ended.

Plot Talk: So Replica takes place in a dystopian-type vaguely futuristic setting. I... kind of assumes it was the future, anyways. I suppose it could have been an alrternate history type deal, but the advanced technology, the part where the US has kind of fallen, and the whole cloning/human back-up thing made me assume future. It was pretty vague, though, and I think that the world-building suffered quite a bit.

That was not really about plot, was it? Okay, so. The plot itself is your average girl is engaged to boy. Boy is not into girls but it's a political arranged marriage. Boy gets killed and brought back to life. Girl gets threatened by a government agent employed by boy's father into spying on boy. Boy and girl go to extreme measures to find boy's killer and end up discovering all the dark secret-type things you'd expect in this kind of thing.

There. Plot! *jazz hands*

Characters: This is an alternating POV book, starting with Nadia's POV. Nadia is sixteen, arranged to be engaged since the age of four (because they couldn't be legally engaged until they were both eighteen because arranged marriage is totes cool when it involves barely legal teenagers), and... kind of boring. I'm sorry! I really wanted to like her, but I didn't feel like she actually had much personality and the plot definitely did not give her a lot of agency most of the time. There were a fair amount of instances where she could have been removed from the book and it wouldn't have changed things, and that really sucked.

As the book was told in third person, I think Nadia ended up feeling removed. You didn't really know that much about her besides that she really liked tea. She didn't get nearly enough characterization for my tastes. t was disappointing because her story was really interesting and the moments where you got to see a little more of her personality were great and made me want so much more.

Nate got a lot more characterization and character growth. He went from spoiled playboy to much more grounded and realistic through the book. His POV starts with him waking up as a clone (or Replica) so you never get to see the "Original" Nate's POV, only him from Nadia's POV, which raises fascinating questions regarding the whole "what makes a human" thing. That was a really cool idea and that element was handled well.

Nate being a MOGII* person was also handled extremely well. I think it's super important that sci-fi and fantasy be diverse and that everything doesn't have to be an "issue" book. Having only one kind of story told about people like you is not really great representation, and represention is so important. Nate being gay was obviously important to his character, but it wasn't that important to the plot. It ends up just being another part of his character.

Nate's boyfriend Kurt Bishop was very important to the plot, but also not because of their relationship or his orientation. He was a chritical character for reasons other than the romance between him and Nate. This is actually a book that does not focus heavily on romance, although their relationship is focused on more than any other in the book. In general, the romance is very minimal - the only kiss is actually a kiss on the head that ends up being very poignant - but their relationship is talked about and on-screen the most. Which is great.

The side characters were good, too. I'm not always a huge fan of "mean girl" characters because I think they can be very shallow and misogynistic, and there were a few of them, and Nadia's father didn't really seem to get a lot of screentime, but her mother had a few great, really unexpected moments. And the villain kind of completely shocked me.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I really do hate that Nadia wasn't more characterized. That's something that actually makes me sad. The pacing and world-building could have been better stronger, as well.

PG-13 stuff: It's definitely an older YA, or for a more mature reader. There's some language, teenage drinking mentions of drug use, and sex. But there's also, more importantly to me, a lot of fridge horror in the cloning aspect, the realities of having a very rich popular controlling a large, very poor population where there's crime and violence and hopelessness. There's also a mention of Nadia's mother once having a miscarriage (not plot related, but some people have trouble reading that) and sex workers, including very young people, even children.

It's not necessarily bad to me to include things like this in media, but I think it's important to talk about it in reviews/discussions for people who might not be okay with reading it, so that's what I'm trying to do here.

Cover comments: I like it. It's very science-y. Sleek. It works very well for the book, I think.

Conclusion: This review is coming off a lot more negative than I expected! While the things I had problems with were almost enough to make me stop reading because I had trouble getting into it, I did end up enjoying it. I don't think the plot was too unique - it's vaguely Hungers Game-esque in the world-building - but the book did have a good amount of interesting, fairly unique element and, although the ending seemed a bit like sequel bait, it was satisfying to finish it. It's somewhat of a cliffhanger, but it was predictable enough to me that it would me a cliffhanger that it didn't bother me.

And I really did like that one of the characters was a MOGII* person because representation is super important and this kind is particularly refreshing. Diversity in YA and all that good stuff.

So while I had issues, I don't want you to think I hated it or anything. I really didn't! I liked the plot, I really liked a lot of the creepier elements, I liked most of the characters. I liked a lot of the book, I just had... issues connecting at times. I give Replica three and a half roses out of five for me personally, but I do recommend it and I think a lot of people would enjoy it.



*Marginalized Orientations, Gender Identities, and Intersex

Other notes:
- I have a note here that literally says "Thing about hair dye, cookies, etc, Laina" so apparently I was getting tired when I wrote this out.
- OH yeah, a character at one point shaves his head because "dye stinks". Dude, it's the FUTURE and body mod is huge, apparently. I have hair dye that smells like grapes. DON'T YOU GIVE ME THAT NOISE.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

2 comments:

  1. I don't think I had heard about this book (but I did know about her adult books). The premise sounds interesting but I think I'll wait until I have less to read before giving it a try - thanks for the review!

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    Replies
    1. She also wrote the Faeriewalker series which I think more people have heard of. Glimmerglass especially? I hadn't heard of this either when I found it at the library, lol, but I recognized her name. That's what I'd do, yeah. Worth reading, but probably not at the top of the stack. Thanks for the comment!

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