YA lit easily makes up 40% of my reading choices — don’t get me started on that Slate piece. For the past few years, a number of those books have been of the dystopian variety, most of which has been really interesting (please check out Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy or Neal Schusterman’s Unwind series for some underrated selections), but I had finally hit the wall when it came to scary prospective futures.
Or so I thought. Let us welcome a new contender to the arena, Pierce Brown and the start of his Red Rising trilogy. I was knocked a bit sideways by this one and have made it my duty to spread the good word.
Our hero is a sixteen year old Helldiver (a skilled driller who works deep under the surface of Mars) named Darrow. In the Mars caste system, he and his family are Reds. They believe that generations of dangerous work to mill precious elements is all to make Mars livable. After an act of defiance, Darrow finds that everything he knows is a big old lie. Mars was terraformed years ago, with a whole society riding on the slave labor of the Reds.
Darrow is recruited to infiltrate the Golds, the peak of society, at the Institute — a Hunger Games/Battle Royale-style “school” that filters out the best of the best to be future leaders. While some of the elements here are a bit derivative of other books, it all works, and you really don’t care because the book is so engrossing. You completely forget that these are supposed to be kids between the age of 16 and 18. They quickly become fierce warriors, working to literally conquer each other and eliminate their opponents. Brown fills his book with tons of fascinating characters (Sevro will be your favorite, I promise) and forces those characters to come to terms with some hard questions.
The second book, Golden Son, is out early next year. Which is entirely too far away.
Have any books taken you by surprise lately?