Review (Amazon): What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.
My Review (Spoilers!):
Executive Summary: exciting
One of my friends recommended this book to me and it was available for instant download from the library, so I picked it up while on vacation and just blew through it. It’s YA so it moves at a fast pace. It’s also different enough to be fresh and engaging.
The story focuses on two 15 year olds from opposite ends of life–June Iparis is the prodigy of The Republic (post-apocalyptic USA) who grew up in a rich family and scored a perfect 1500 on the test to determine people’s futures. She’s the only one who ever scored a perfect and is a hotshot in the army, moving up quickly especially with her older brother Metias’s help. Her parents died and her brother looked after her like a parent. Metias’s best friend Thomas is also a sort of brother to June, but he wants to ensure she is abiding all the rules like he does.
On the other hand, we have Day. He grew up in the projects with his mother and two brothers. His mother believes that he is dead, however his older brother knows that he is alive, and Day spends his day being a sort of Robin Hood to get food and other supplies to his brother to take care of their family. He is wanted by The Republic for a number of crimes but he has never been caught. Day has a partner named Tess.
Day and Tess watch the soldiers investigate every home on Day’s mother’s street to check for the plague. When the soldiers finally leave his mother’s house, they mark an X on the front door. But unlike the other X’s left by previous plagues, this one has a third line going through it. Something is different this time.
Day breaks into the hospital to try to get a cure for the plague. He manages to get some medicine but he barely squeaks out alive. In the process, he has to shoot Metias in the shoulder. He doesn’t like to hurt people, let alone kill them so he is always careful to minimize damages. Also in the process, he manages to lose the pendant which his father gave him.
When June finds out about the break-in, the story has changed a bit from where it was left off. Her brother is dead. He was stabbed in the heart by Day during the attack. She is assigned to find Day, and she figures out a plan. She decides to pose as a blackmarket plague medicine dealer. She spreads the rumors to the right sources, but when she goes to meet him, Day sees her and knows by the knot of her cloak that she is military so he scrams. June creates a new plan–to go undercover.
In the meantime, Day discovers a pipe leading up to the pier where he and Tess sometimes sit with a red painted number on it.
June wanders around the slums for a few days with no real leads, but then she stumbles into a Skiz fight (a street fight). A bartender who Day knows is the reigning champ, and decides that she will pick a random victim from the audience, and she selects Tess. For some reason, June volunteers to go in her place. Bets are taken, mostly against June, but of course she ends up winning although she gets stabbed by a knife in the meantime. Day and Tess help her since she helped save Tess, despite them losing a lot of money by betting against her.
June stays with them a few days while she recovers, and June and Day start falling for each other, even sharing a drunken kiss. She even turns off her ear bud where Thomas (who is also falling for her) keeps bothering her. Eventually though she sees Day touch a non-existant pendant on his neck and she realizes that he is who killed her brother. She follows him to find out where his family lives (where he sees another pipe with another red number), and then she calls it in. The following day, the army officers show up at Day’s family’s house luring him in. His family goes outside, and June steps out to let him know that she is who turned him in. She wants him to turn himself in, but the captain tries a different tactic. She orders Thomas to put a gun to Day’s mother’s head and shoot her. Day is furious and takes down some of the officers who are there but is eventually shot in the leg and taken into custody along with his two brothers.
Due to the situation with Day’s mother, June begins to grow skeptical of both Thomas and the Republic’s mission. But still, she is convinced that Day killed Metias. She interviews him when he wakes up, and he admits to many acts of wrongdoing but he insists that he did not kill Metias. June asks him about his past, how “Daniel Altan Wing” died in the labor camps. Day laughs because he knows the labor camps are not real. They are only something that the rich think happens. In reality, the poor and the ones who score too poorly on their tests get taken for experimental testing. It’s what happened to Day, and they thought he was dead. So when he woke up, he decided to continue to be dead. When June is done interviewing him, she orders him to be moved to another cell and along the way, he sees a red 0 painted. It’s the same as the other red numbers.
June continues her skepticism and starts investigating Day. She looks up his test score which is listed as 674, the lowest score she’s seen ever. She knows he is smarter than that so she keeps digging. She opens up the restricted file of his test and it’s identical to hers–he got a perfect score too.
Day is sentenced to death by firing squad in 4 days’ time. June is in charge of watching over him until then. He tells June that the Labor Camps aren’t real and about the experiments they did on him. He asks about the plague which never goes away and comes back in different forms every year, but only to the poor because the rich get vaccinated. How do the rich get the exact vaccination every year? June begins to think of her father who had worked on the plague vaccinations. June leaves amidst confusion but sends Day to the hospital to get his leg looked at.
June continues her investigations which become even more pointed once the Republic opens fire on a bunch of unarmed protesters. She revisits Metias’s death and realizes that she was set up to not fully investigate what happened to him. None of the crime scene photos are of the arm which Day said he injured. But looking closer at the knife imbedded in her brother’s chest, she sees rifle grease on the hilt and knows that it was Thomas who killed him. She looks at her brother’s journal and realizes that he has left her a secret message in it. She decodes it to lead her to a website which explains that her parents were also killed by the Republic.
June realizes that saving Day may be the only way to fix things. She reaches out to Kaede (the girl from the Skiz fight) and finds Day’ friend Tess has joined up with her and the Patriots (rebels of the Republic). They create a plan to get Day (and his two brothers) out before the execution. Unfortunately for them and their plan, the Commander moved up the execution date. The electro-bomb goes off as planned which restricts use of any guns, and the Patriots are there. June leads Day and his older brother John out, but they are running out of time, so John, who looks identical to Day, sacrifices himself to be executed in Day’s place. June and Day escape and begin to try to formulate a plan to find Day’s other brother Eden.
Verdict: 4 stars
This was one of the best YA books I’ve read in a while. It’s certainly better than Divergent or the Mortal Instruments series. While I did give it 4 stars, that is in relation to other books in its genre. While the plot was a little predictable to me as an adult, I thought that it was well written and well thought out. I liked that the numbers were deliberately put into the story and then it turned out that they pipes were how the Republic was infecting specific people. I also enjoyed the dichotomy of two really strong characters but on opposing sides (and with opposing genders). I didn’t feel like June was weak or overly swoony even though she did grow and develop through the novel. I really appreciated that.