ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Written by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Published by Harlequin Teen, August 29, 2017
My star rating: 2 stars
Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks, for every nod, for every scream and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.
But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Rather than read her speech—rather than say anything at all—she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again, sparking a movement that threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them. Find it on Goodreads
I was so pumped for this book. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017 and I predicted that it would be a guaranteed 5 stars. I am so heartbroken to say that I was really let down by my reading experience with this book. I’m a fairy easy person to please when it comes to books. I read for enjoyment and entertainment and don’t go into books with a critical eye. As long as the writing is good, the puzzle pieces fit, I can relate to the characters and I can picture the world – I’m happy. The writing style was good, I liked the sci-fi elements, and the premise is one of the most unique and intriguing I’ve ever heard of in YA. But sadly, this is where my enjoyment ends. I know that there will be people out there that LOVE this book!! Like I said, the premise is amazing! I just found that I couldn’t get past some issues and the amount of unanswered questions. I hope that I can explain myself properly but it’s going to be hard. A lot of the issues I had are spoilery in nature, and if I was to explain myself 100% then I will spoil something. This will be tricky without spoiling anything but I will try my best to explain myself.
Like I said, the premise for this book is just incredible. Living in a world where you’re charged for every intentional move you make and every word you speak is just a terrifying idea. They’re living in a world where everything is trademarked and copyrighted. Brands and ownership are everything. But at times, the brands were a little distracting. There were TM and C symbols everywhere, capitalized names were spread all over the place, and all the brands were fictional. This was the whole point of the book so it’s not the books fault – I just couldn’t get my brain to stop tripping over the brands.
The sci-fi elements and the dystopian elements were probably my favourite part. I LOVE that there were ocular implants and a cuff that you wore every day. These cuffs will track your words, communicate, display ads customized to you, and even inject medications. There were also food printers for those who couldn’t afford fresh food, and buildings were made on a large scale 3D printer. The best part of this whole book though were the Product Placers. They wore all black and had James Bond super spy moves. They moved only at night to place and remove products. They had cool gadgets and a different task every day.
Here’s where things go downhill…..
The world building was very spotty throughout. I felt as though I could picture the day to day setting of the story so well. I could see the buildings, the streets and the advertisements everywhere. I imagined Time Square in New York but on the scale of an entire city. But what I didn’t get was the setting of the world as a whole. I have no clue if this book takes place in the US (I assume that it did because they mentioned Texas), and what the rest of the world looked like. It was mentioned that this “city” was under a dome but never even explained the dome in detail. I wanted to know what was outside of the dome! How big was it? Why were they even in a dome? Are there multiple domes throughout the world or is this a special situation? There was also talk of places where people were sent to work off their debts when they couldn’t keep up with their payments – but where was that? Not enough detail for me. I could have used some good old fashioned info dumping so I could get my bearings and set the world in my mind.
Going along with the no detail aspect – I had no clue why the world was this way. What had gotten society to this point? If they racked up hundreds (possibly thousands) of dollars in debts just by the words they spoke, what was the average income for a person living there? Just when it seemed like the book was going in a direction where these questions might get answered, we would stop dead and there would be nothing. There were SO MANY missed opportunities! It felt like this was all being set up for an explanation, connections were being made and then…….. radio silence. This is the type of book that expects you to suspend your beliefs and accept things as they are. I’m usually ok with that because in the long run we get bits and pieces of information about the world and the systems that tie it all together. But I spent literally this whole book feeling lost and asking a million questions – to never have them answered.
Then there’s Speth and her choice to become silent. I wanted so much more depth to this choice and movement. I thought the whole thing is that she was staying silent to stick it to “the man” and start a revolt….. but it wasn’t really a choice….. It was more of an accident. And then when she realized what was happening she continued to stay silent more so because it was too late and NOT because she had a purpose. I think that this could have been so much better if she had a purpose and direction to her choices. But it was the quick action of a 15 year old girl who went through a traumatizing experience. I wanted so badly for her to be a strong female lead with a goal to take down the system but she was more of a lost puppy. She was the initial person to make the choice to stay silent but she didn’t think it through and struggled with everything. It was everyone around her that seemed to take the steps to make their silence really mean something and then turn it into action. Her role ended up being the poster child.
Speth wasn’t a great perspective to read from either. She used the people who were helping her. She was being supported emotionally by her sister and brother but was selfish in so many ways (but then not in others). Worst of all, she contradicted herself so many times! For example, a 15 year old girl announces that she was a silent and then commits suicide. These were Speth’s thoughts:
Did she think her death would be romantic? If she had really wanted to do something, she could have used her words to speak out. She had a voice. She would have been heard.
I’m sorry but WHAT?!?!? A girl who chooses to stay silent is saying that if a girl really wanted to do something then she should have talked???? Again, I say, WHAT?! I’m assuming that this is in reference to the girl being wealthy and that maybe because she had money people would have listened. But even still. Here she is, choosing to be silent, unable to complete the basic communications and having people around her question her thoughts and motives ALL DAY LONG, and she’s saying that someone should have spoken out. This irked me SO MUCH!
The side characters were much of the same. We met so many other characters that didn’t have any back story to them at all. Or, we got an inkling that they have a bigger part to the story but were never mentioned again and why they’re connected. For example, Speths’ mother. In the beginning we got the feeling that her mom was passionate and political in her views. After Speth decides to be silent she gets to talk to her parents for a couple of minutes and there was an unspoken connected between the two of them….. then we never see or hear from her mother again. There had to be some connection and bigger picture there but it never followed through.
I guess that everything in this book seemed to be one dimensional. I really struggled to make connections to the bigger picture and couldn’t grasp the world as a whole. I also wasn’t able to connect with the characters in any way. I know that there are people who’s reading tastes differ from mine, who will go crazy over this book. But sadly, this book isn’t for me and I won’t be continuing with this series.
Has anyone else read this book? What are your thoughts? I’m hoping that maybe your experience was different from mine and I can maybe look at this in a different light.
Until next time, happy reading!