In the continuing saga of trading YA books with Kelly I have read an interesting take on the dystopian future, based on the premise that the government decides to try and get >99% of the public to watch a reality TV show. This may be no child’s game, but it’s certainly a child’s book, so why exactly the government is doing this is not well defined. A (spoiler) large plot point becomes the fact that the cameras for this TV show are implanted in the children’s eyes. How, exactly, they make it non-obvious that the entire show is being shot first-person is also not discussed.
All in all it’s probably a much more simply-written YA book than some of the others we’ve read, and unfortunately I don’t think it manages to present the question of preventing the dystopia very well. I actually think the historical-recreation-using-kids was a fun angle, but I’m forever amused by YA’s need to cram a dystopian future into every book. Is there some kind of conspiracy to make kids believe that the world is definitely ending soon? Making you think is one of the things I love about YA books, especially because of the heavy-handedness, but you can’t just go tossing in dystopia like a scarf around the neck of the hero, you need to use it to bring some meaning to the thing. Decorative dystopia just makes me irritable.
I also have to say that there’s a stark difference between writing at children’s level, and writing poorly. To my mind writing for children, but writing correctly and well, is important. I read a lot as a child, and I’m almost certain that reading high-quality writing helped me to become a highly capable reader early on, as well as led to improved writing. I do think this book falls a little bit on the bad-writing side of the equation unfortunately.
All in all, an enjoyable read, but definitely left me wishing that the author had tried just a tiny bit harder to make it reasonable, believable, and well written.
He quickly changed the channel of his mind so that he wouldn’t have to consider the life of poverty he had narrowly escaped. He had almost been forced to play a real-life Survivor — a game with no rules, no fans, no prize money, and worst of all, no hope.
I have a job. A hut in Shanty Town. One hundred and fifty dollars in the bank, he reassured himself. Everything will be fine.