Tuesday, December 24, 2013

YA Sci-Fi: The Darkest Path by Jeff Hirsch

Publisher: Scholastic
Date: September 24, 2013
Format: ARC
Source: GoodReads First Look
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 320
Reading time: one day

From GoodReads: A civil war rages between the Glorious Path--a militant religion based on the teachings of a former US soldier--and what's left of the US government. Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe and his younger brother, James, were captured and forced to convert six years ago. Cal has been working in the Path's dog kennels, and is very close to becoming one of the Path's deadliest secret agents. Then Cal befriends a stray dog named Bear and kills a commander who wants to train him to be a vicious attack dog. This sends Cal and Bear on the run, and sets in motion a series of incredible events that will test Cal's loyalties and end in a fierce battle that the fate of the entire country rests on.

My review: This is the first book by Jeff Hirsch that I've read, and, overall, I enjoyed it. It was a fun read for a rainy day. The plot starts out fast-paced, intense, and exciting, and it continues in this style throughout the novel. I liked the religious elements of the dystopia, since religion is one aspect very relevant to today that I think could be explored a lot more in the recent YA dystopian genre spree.

But, otherwise, I had some issues with the story. Cal and James's ages are given as pretty young, but their characterizations and actions mark them as far more mature. In the most succinct and obvious example, at one point Cal is about to send 13-year-old James off on a road trip hundreds of miles long by himself (forgetting that James of course hasn't learned to drive). I felt like the Path's methods of control weren't very fleshed-out; it's one thing to nominally take over vast swaths of the U.S. and another to actually change the views of all the occupants there so that there's not the constant threat of internal rebels. Some of the dystopia's characteristics seemed to get lost during the course of the story, like the Path's supposed lack of reliance on modern things. I also tired of just how much the setting and characters present changed - let's please stick with one or two sets and quit switching around. Still, the novel wrapped up well, ending on a perfect note for a standalone.

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