Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Blog Tour Review & Giveaway: The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
Date: July 23, 2013 (US)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)
Reading time: four days
From GoodReads: Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car. She is headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember what’s happened, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and Anais’s school uniform is covered in blood. Raised in foster care from birth and moved through twenty-three placements before she even turned seven, Anais has been let down by just about every adult she has ever met. Now a counter-culture outlaw, she knows that she can only rely on herself. And yet despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, she greets the world with the witty, fierce insight of a survivor. Anais finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon – they form intense bonds, and she soon becomes part of an ad hoc family. Together, they struggle against the adults that keep them confined. When she looks up at the watchtower that looms over the residents though, Anais knows her fate: she is an anonymous part of an experiment, and she always was. Now it seems that the experiment is closing in.
My review: To clarify the genre of this novel (the synopsis above makes it pretty clear, but I know there was some confusion when news of the book's upcoming release first appeared on the blogsphere), I saw it as realistic or contemporary fiction about the Scottish foster care system. There are some dystopian elements, especially towards the beginning of the novel, but Anais is an unreliable narrator, so the truth of these is unclear.
The dialect took a little bit of time to get used to (I actually thought it was a typo the first time, oops) but overall was not difficult to read. Because of her actions and self-destructive behavior, Anais is not the most likable character, but her resilience and mentality draw readers into her story. The situations in which she and the other teens at the Panopticon live are tough, gritty, depressing, but they are portrayed very matter-of-factly, without extra drama or sensationalism. It's heartbreaking seemingly without even trying to tug at your heartstrings. You want to feel optimistic and think that everything will work out perfectly for everyone in the end, but at the same time, it's clear that the characters cannot have truly healthy, happy lives while they remain within the system, and the situation is too complex for someone else to simply come in and "rescue" them. The novel is one of the most realistic and effective portrayals of social issues that I have read in a very long time, and I was a bit disappointed to see the story end where it did.
Maturity factor: language (to the extent of causing DNFs for several other reviewers), nongraphic sexual situations and rape, drugs
Giveaway: TLC Book Tours has graciously provided an extra copy of The Panopticon to give away. Open to US addresses only; ends September 10, 2013.
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