Wednesday, August 12, 2015

7 Heart Review: The 100 by Kass Morgan

The 100 (The Hundred #1)
Kass Morgan

Page Count: 323

Release Date: March 18th 2014 (CW tie-in release)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, FSB Media!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

No one has set foot on Earth in centuries—until now.

Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents—considered expendable by society—are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life... or it could be a suicide mission.

Clarke was arrested for treason, though she's haunted by the memory of what she really did. Wells, the chancellor's son, came to Earth for the girl he loves—but will she ever forgive him? Reckless Bellamy fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And Glass managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind's last hope.
"At least we know you'll be able to hold your own with the other delinquents when you get there."
"Get where?" Clarke grunted, trying to free herself from the guard's grip.
"We're clearing out the detention center today. A hundred lucky criminals are getting the chance to make history." The corners of his mouth twitched into a smirk. "You're going to Earth."

Having interviewed Kass Morgan at my blog last year and given the success of the CW series based on the books, I was plenty eager to give The 100 a try. While I haven't read a staggering amount of YA dystopian, the books in the genre that I have tried (e.g. classics like The Giver and the Uglies series), I absolutely loved; given my background, my initial impressions of the premise were highly anticipatory.

The book is told from four different teenagers' perspectives—Clarke, Wells, Bellamy, and Glass. All narratives aside from Glass's are told in a concurrent timeline, through the eyes of the delinquents who have been forced to settle on Earth for the first time in centuries. While Glass's story, which takes place back on the mothership, was initially the least interesting, it eventually pans out to serve as an anchor—a tie to the surviving, but still unstable lifestyle back in space.

Kass Morgan creates a vivid high-tech world in The 100, where citizens are divided by social standing and resources are limited—of course, except to the upperclass. Back on Earth, the prospects are obviously grim, but it's still a thrill of a journey to follow Clarke, Wells, Bellamy, and the other 97, as they each rediscover a planet that they've only read about in books, yet have such a deep internal connection with. I appreciate the idea of providing different points of view, but think it was slightly too ambitious for the author to try to squeeze a Lord of the Flies-esque conflict AND a love triangle AND an undercurrent of radiation's aftereffects (say what?) into everything. It's all interesting until it just becomes too much; I'd have much preferred one central conflict with stronger relationship-building and more background insight.

While there is no one thing fatally wrong with any of the characters, all four of them are too generic, too idealized. Everyone loves having attractive/smart/clever characters to read about, but they all start to blend together when the author tries to make them all perfect, especially since everyone thinks in close third person. The unrealistic and unextraordinary characterization prevented me from developing any sort of attachment to any of them. The only one that seemed remotely human and believable was Bellamy, our resident rebel. But then again I've always been a sucker for bad boys with a past...

That said, the story itself is filled with drama and tension between the main characters (and secondary characters!) which makes The 100 exciting to read. The sheer nature of the resettlement of our planet is enthralling; Morgan does well with engaging readers to the surprises and twists scattered throughout the novel. There's definitely lots of action-filled scenes and, love it or hate, an INTENSE cliffhanger ending, that just leaves you thirsty for more.

Structurally, I found The 100 quite hard to work with. The constantly changing perspectives get a bit disorienting because it's not just a "he said, she said," but rather a "he said, she said, another he said, another she said." Kind of exhausting. On top of that, each of the narratives are very heavy on backstory which, in good fiction, is absolutely necessary. But when it takes up 50% of the book in the form of italicized flashbacks, it gets out of control.

Pros


Fascinating storyline and world-building // Engaging; keeps you hanging on constantly // Dramatic Earth-bound adventures and minor plot twists // Bellamy is a strongly written character // Ending makes me want to read the second book! That's what ultimately matters, right?

Cons


Abundance of flashbacks is annoying; causes disorder in the flow of the storytelling // Constant narrative shifts also gets chaotic // Stylistically unimpressive // All the characters are grossly idealized (i.e. sweet, pretty/handsome, kind, brave, etc.) and thus pretty forgettable (with the exception of Bellamy) // Cliffhanger ending may cause distress

Love

Bellamy brought his hands behind his head and tilted his face toward the sun, exhaling as the warmth seeped into his skin. It was almost as nice as being in bed with a girl. Maybe even better, because the sun would never ask him what he was thinking.

Verdict


Despite my numerous quips with the lacking characters and structure of The 100, I found myself enjoying it while reading and left wanting more once finished. It's definitely a plot-driven sci-fi novel with lots of action and lots of suspense; if that's your thing, you should totally give it a chance. Kass Morgan's debut is one of those books that isn't mind-blowing, but is still hard to put down, so I definitely understand its appeal to mainstream young adult audiences. While unimpressive in a literary lens or by composition, The 100 is still a promising first installment in an exciting dystopian series Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)