Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2011
Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.
Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.
In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
Oh. Wow. Hands down, the most believable dystopian premise yet. An entire digitalized society? One where most people rarely leave home because just about everything can be done form their computers? Where even when they are out and about with other people, "interacting", they are still plugged in to their cell phones, laptops, iPods, etc., not even listening to or looking at other people? A society where you have hundreds, if not thousands of "friends", who you have never met face-to-face (and never intend to)? Sounds a lot like we're more than halfway there, doesn't it? This book is more than a fictional dystopia. It is a social commentary on where we are headed as a society, and it is scary. It makes me want to disable my Facebook, Twitter, and blog (which of course, I won't) and go live in the woods for awhile...
I thought this book was really, REALLY good, and not just because it wasn't far-fetched. The writing was excellent, and I was dumbfounded when I found out that this was Katie Kacvinsky's debut novel. The way she uses words makes you feel like it's real. I felt Maddie's hopelessness, then her growing hope. Her helplessness, then sense of empowerment. Her longing and need. Her happiness and fear. They were Maddie's emotions, but Kacvinsky, through her writing, made them mine. As for the characters? Well, they are now my friends. Friends that I can't wait to catch up with in book number two, Middle Ground (which was just optioned). I thought Maddie was a great character. She wasn't entirely sure of herself, but managed to be a strong heroine anyway. She was totally human, which when you read the book, you will find ironic. As for Justin? *swoon* Could he be more perfect? Selfless, gorgeous, principled... Sure, he's kind of emotionally detached, but that's what feminine wiles are for, right? Clare was great as someone who could relate to Maddie, and though we saw very little of her, Maddie's mom was a wonderful character as well (who I think/hope will play a larger role as the story plays out).
Anyway, I loved this book. One of my favorite reads of 2011. Middle Ground has already been written, so I expect it's release won't be years and years off (although a date has not been announced). I will definitely be looking out for it because I plan to read it on the day it drops (unless someone is kind enough to send me an ARC *wink, wink*).
Oh, and isn't the cover eerily gorgeous? Having read the book, I totally get it now, and it is PERFECT!
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ +
Grade Level Recommendation: There is definitely romance in this book, and the feelings are intense, but there is no sex or physicality beyond making out. There is a curse word here and there, but I can count on one hand the number. Violence is very minimal, and for a dystopia, practically non-existent. I think this book is fine for 5th grade+ (ages 10+). Even a mature 4th grader could read this if the parents were okay with the romantic parts (I would have encouraged my rising 5th grader to read it last year, and I am MAKING her read it now.). I think that kids today NEED to read this book. They are so plugged-in that this WILL be their reality if they don't get some kind of wake-up call. Honestly, I plan to suggest this to a 6th grade teacher I know, who is looking for classroom-read options. It would be a FANTASTIC class discussion book that the kids could relate to.