Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: Socialpunk

As a high school librarian, I try to be well versed in the world of YA literature.  That's why I leaped at a chance to preview Monica Leonelle's latest offering --Socialpunk, the first installment of her Socialpunk Trilogy.
Monica Leonelle is a digital media strategist. She is also the author of Silver Smoke and Tin Soldier from the Seven Halo's Series.  She blogs at Prose on Fire (http://proseonfire.com) and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors through her Free Writer Toolkit (http://proseonfire.com/free-writer-toolkit).
Her latest offering features Ima, the teen victim of an abusive father.  Ima longs to be free from her father and from the Dome-- a futuristic Chicago with barriers because of the wasteland that surrounds it from the "Scorched Years.  While partying with her crush, she is tricked in to following a hooded man who rescues her from the exploding party.  She follows the stranger to a new future world, learns to thrive in the new world, and must decide if she wants to fight to save the old world.
Excerpt:

Prologue

After playing God for six years with the world he created, he couldn’t control any of his subjects, none at all. Over the years, he had watched them evolve and become the sum of their own choices rather than the sum of his; and for that, he regretted ever giving them life.
A small, blinking red light from just inside his eyelid reminded him of the news they sent him earlier that morning. The company had cancelled his funding and would shut down his project within three months. According to them, the project cost too much and took up too much space, and the inconclusive results couldn’t be published reputably, now or in the future.
Six years of his work, tens of thousands of lives at stake—and he could do nothing to save any of it. He bowed his head, letting his chin rest on the rim of his breakfast smoothie. The smoothie reeked of powder—crushed pills—but he supposed he had better get used to it. He wouldn’t be able to afford the luxury of real food after they canned him.
He closed his eyes and called up the camera view of one of his favorites, number 3281. She fascinated him; he couldn’t deny it. When he had designed her, her pre-teen rebelliousness lit fire in her eyes. A survivor, he’d thought. He’d meant for her to have it all—to grow up, to get married to the love of her life, and to have a beautiful family of her own someday.
But he had only given her sadness so far. Instead of creating a strict father, he had given her an abusive one. Instead of creating a loving boyfriend, he had given her a friend who could never love her. And instead of creating a strong, proud mother, he had given her a meek one, who watched the whole thing unfold and did nothing about it.
He looked at his last and final creation sitting in the chair across from him—his own son, not awakened yet. The law forbade him to have any children of his own, so this boy would substitute.
But he had done the unthinkable with this creation—he had bestowed on it his own thoughts, emotions, and decision-making processes. He’d given the boy his own mind, his own physical characteristics, his own wants and desires.
He had never done so with any of the others because of the dangers of investing too heavily in any one of his subjects. But who could he kid? He had not stayed objective thus far, watching some of his subjects more closely than others, wishing for the happiness of some at the expense of others. He had become an abomination, a monster of his own doing, who had created subjects only to watch them suffer.
He couldn’t forgive himself; not now, not ever. His eyes lingered on the vial that sat next to his breakfast smoothie, that he’d stowed away for the day when they destroyed all his work, his entire world. He would save it, tuck it away for now, for as long as he could protect them. When things spun out of his control, he would drink it and end himself the way he had ended them.
In the ancient stories, gods frequently gave their sons as gifts. Now, he would give his son as a gift to her, number 3281. So she could be happy in her last months on earth, before they destroyed her with the rest of them.
 
On the one hand, I was very inspired by Monica's writing.  Coupled with reading Socialpunk, I was asked to also critique a student's magna opus--a superhero/fantasy YA the student wrote in her spare time.  That's right, a student found the time to put 244 pages of  story into the written word, which is more than most anyone I have ever known has composed on a single topic.  Alas, the student's writing isn't quite publisher ready.  I think my biggest critique for the student's story was her penchant for "telling"  instead of showing the reader.  I liked that I could point to Leonelle's work as a comparison for my student--it was very hard to put into words the difference in showing the reader verses telling the reader.  So for this reason, I am in debt to Leonelle's more mature storytelling style.
That said, I think I am on futuristic YA distopia burn out.  I've never been that crazy about futuristic/sci-fi novels but they seem to be this YA season's version of the vampire craze.  I found Socialpunk's lead character a little to reminiscent of a Meyer's Bella.  The multiple love triangles seem like they've been featured in every popular YA book my students' recommend. The story was a mix of the matrix and predictable YA cliches.  While Leonelle attempts to create an original world, all of the "surprises" even up to the last lines of this novel, are easy for an astute reader to guess in advance. While I think my students will like this novel, it really was disappointingly not my cup of tea.
If you'd love to give Socialpunk a fair shake on your own, you can purchase your own copy here
Amazon: http://monicaleonelle.com/SocialpunkA
Barnes and Noble: http://monicaleonelle.com/SocialpunkB

Many thanks to Monica Leonelle for providing a copy of her book for my review in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I received no additional compensation for my review.  All opinions are 100% my own.



StumbleUpon