Customer: Do you have ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’?
Me: Our database shows we should have one copy, but it’s not on the shelf. Unfortunately, this means it has gone missing, probably stolen.
Customer: *laughing* Well, I guess you could say a Grinch stole ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’.
*Customer shows me a picture of a rather old book on his phone*
Customer: I saw this book in your store 6 years ago. Do you still have it?
I know that there are a lot of young adult (YA) books around at the moment that delve into the themes of a hierarchical and unfair society, and rising up against oppression.
So, when one of our publishing reps at work gave me an uncorrected proof for Red Queen, I was sceptical. I fully expected it to be going to be just another YA book that conformed to the current dystopian fad – nothing special, and basically a carbon copy of something already out there.
But Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel (the first in a planned trilogy) has certainly raised the bar for dystopian genre YA novels.
Mare Barrow lives in a world where everyone is divided by the colour of his or her blood – you are either Silver or Red. The life of a Red is not one that is coveted, and it is one that is lived shortly, and in misery. Silvers, on the other hand, live in wealth and luxury, and have different abilities that give them power and position over the Reds – the ability to read minds, the ability to control a particular element, or even the ability to control nature. For the Silvers it is all about power and control.
Mare is a 17-year-old Red and spends her days thieving and pick pocketing to help her family to survive. Reds must have an apprenticeship by 18 years of age, otherwise they are conscripted to the kingdom’s long running war with the neighbouring Lakelanders. This weighs heavily on Mare’s mind, as she is almost 18-years-old with no apprenticeship or job prospects. The war has already taken her three brothers away from her family, and she hates the Silvers for it.
A twist of fate intervenes, and Mare finds herself working at the summer palace for the Silver royal family of her region, and she soon discovers that she possesses a mysterious power of her own. In an attempt to cover up this genetic anomaly, the king forces Mare to pretend to be a lost Silver noble, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she must decide whether to follow her head or her heart, knowing that one wrong move will lead to her death.
I got totally absorbed in this book. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about what had just happened, and what I thought was going to happen next. It hooked me right in! I will admit that there are elements of the book that reek with familiarity, but the more you read, the more you start thinking that it is actually quite different.
I am a sucker for a strong, downtrodden female protagonist, so I loved the character of Mare – strong, independent, but still flawed and unsure of herself. I also love that there is an element of romance in the book, but it takes a back seat to the overall storyline, which is refreshing in this genre. And the ending! Not at all what I was expecting, which is fantastic! The book has moments of suspense throughout, but the ending takes the cake – not at all what you think is going to happen.
I really did love this book, and considering Universal Pictures acquired the film rights before Aveyard even finished writing it, I’m obviously not the only one who thinks it great! A great read for teens aged 14+, and for adults who enjoy a good dystopian novel.