Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Goodreads Summary: Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?
In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:
Pioneer is her leader.
Will is her Intended.
The end of the world is near.
Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound's underground fortress--the Silo.
Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she'd rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.
Goodreads / Barnes and Noble

Genre: Young Adult, thriller
Pages: 352
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Library

First Line: "'Shoot to kill this time, okay?' Will winks and pushes me into the tall corn as we walk through the field to the gun range."

Favorite Quote: "Gee, I think you're really, really cute and all, but I can't go because you're an Outsider and probably have the potential for serious evil and I'm chosen and pure and about to enter a shelter that'll keep me safe while the world implodes and you die. No hard feelings?" 


I went into Gated with fairly low expectations. It's not that it didn't sound good, but in the midst of all the other new releases coming out this fall I may have underestimated this beautiful debut novel. I'm really glad that I ended up checking it out; it would have been a shame to completely miss it altogether. I did have some idea that it might be good because almost all of the reviews I'd read for it had been all about praise, but still I wasn't expecting anything special. However, this book is really difficult to put down, especially when you get to the second half and we get to the meat of the story. I didn't really care for the cover before I started, but now I really appreciate it. From what little we see of the model, she looks just as I pictured Lyla to in my head. The title is very fitting, and I actually really like the tagline (which is nice, because over time most of them have gotten steadily cheesier).

What's interesting is that for the first half at least everything was pretty quiet, and yet I felt compelled to continue because I knew that the situation Lyla and the rest of her community were in could only end badly. I thought that maybe Gated was dystopia at first, but almost immediately after starting it I realized that was not the case. It is, in fact, about a cult. I was a tiny bit put off by this fact at first. I usually don't have a hard time reading about tough subject matter, but this kind of thing in particular is really hard to swallow for me. The last time I read about something like this, with people being so thoroughly brainwashed, it was all I could do to keep from yelling at the book and chucking it across the room in anger. It involved polygamy, however, and thankfully that's not an issue in Gated. The people seem fairly happy. They wear normal clothes, they're fell fed, they use technology and are basically normal. But those facts, of course, did not make what was really going on alright in the slightest. Their leader, Pioneer (who, for the record, is a horrible slime-ball, but more on him later), has everyone almost completely disconnected from the real world and has predicted the end of days. He says everyone outside their Community is "unchoshen" and they are meant to die. He also says he gets visions and prophecies from the mysterious Brethren (who I'm assuming were gods). His people follow his every order and put their complete, blind faith in him, though they have to real proof of what he says.

I liked Lyla almost immediately. For me, she came across as a very realistic person. She was terrified of defying Pioneer and disappointing the people she's grown up with. She doesn't like target practice because she envisions real people instead of cutouts when she's shooting a gun. I felt terribly sorry for in the beginning, and even more so as the story progressed and she gradually started questioning everything she was raised to believe. I was proud of her in her moments of rebellion and the times when she thought for herself and analyzed her life at the Community. She wasn't particularly strong - she's very wishy-washy most of the time with her decisions, which was completely understandable considering how confused she was. Everyone sees her as the weakest link because she's quiet and sweet. In the end, though, she did what she had to do. I felt like Parker created a memorable protagonist. For me, one of the most gut-wrenching things to read about were the scenes with Lyla's parents. They also wholeheartedly trusted Pioneer, and most of the time I couldn't stand them. I believe that they did love her, but at the same time I couldn't help but thinking over and over that my parents would never let me be dragged off to be punished by some guy as he saw fit - I detested that scene. I didn't hate them in the end, but I still think they were terrible parents (I mean, they ran to the shelter without their kid. Didn't they even look when they didn't find her in her bedroom?).

As much as I despised Pioneer, I think he was a pretty good villain. He had this sort of charisma that just made people want to listen to him, and he was especially good at changing his emotions immediately. I could definitely feel the sense of control coming off of him on the pages. The fact that he could act like the Community's safety was so important to him was maddening because underneath his facade he was really just a snake (and an insane one at that). The side characters didn't leave a major impression on me, but I did really enjoy the friendship between Lyla and Marie. Though there were probably a lot of things they kept from each other, they were still close and I got the feeling that they really cared about each other.

The romance in Gated is really just okay. I don't really count it as a love triangle because Lyla never had any strong feelings about Will. I understood her attracted to Cody in the beginning - she rarely saw new people, after all - but he never really came alive as a character to me. It's a shame, because of the little I saw of Cody, I really liked. I think if he'd been around more often I would have felt more strongly about him. From what I can tell, Gated is a standalone novel. Most of the loose ends are tied up fairly well, but there's just one that is left hanging, and I can't help thinking that there is definitely room for a sequel should the author ever choose to write one - I'd definitely read it. Parker's writing was powerful at times, and I think she did an amazing job of conveying how people can be manipulated into thinking a certain way. Overall, I was very satisfied with this story as a whole and I highly recommend it, even though it is hard to read at times.

4 stars 

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Other Opinions: 

The Lost Entwife
Adventures in Reading
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