3.5 - 4 stars
Dark and depressing. A world of child prison camps. Death. Betrayal. A world destroyed. Millions of children dead and a mere handful surviving. Those not taken by the IAAN developed powers - mind-control, pryokinesis, telekinesis, control over technology, enhanced intelligence and perfect memory. For this they are locked away in camps while the rest of America rots and festers, having been cut off from the rest of the global community, which was somehow not affected by IAAN (which is not highly suspect at all
So, Ruby. A bit naive, but given that she was locked away at the age of 10 subsequent to her own parent's refusing to acknowledge her, I understand why Ruby is the way that she is. Quiet. Wary. She honestly believes that she is a monster and that her powers, which include being able to erase herself entirely from someone's memories, can never be controlled.
Lovely, stand-up knight-in-beat-up-black-van, Liam Stewart. He is just a good guy. Trying to do the right thing. He takes on responsibility and guilt. He is a protector. But he also always looks for the good in people, for the best possible outcome. And that just might get him killed.
My favorite: Chubs. Charles that is. Once a hefty lad, the prison camps changed him into a skinny, lanky boy, blind without his glasses. Whipsmart, scholarly, but decidedly unathletic. Nor is he a pretty boy like Liam. Nice, but prickly. He is eternally loyal once he decides to be your friend.
The sweet, precocious Suzanne, a.k.a. Zu. Starved for the companionship of another girl, afraid of her own out-of-control yellow powers. Refuses to speak. What exactly happened to her? She had her head shaved in experiments. What did they do to her? What were they testing? Her own parents sold her out. What did Zu tell Liam? What did she want to tell Ruby? Will she ever get a chance?
I could not believe that the group had only been traveling together for two weeks outside of the camp. Exactly how long had they all known each other before they broke out of Caledonia?
"Never," he said after awhile. "Never, never, never. I am never going to forget you." Except that he does. And that, combined with not knowing whether Chubs even survived the gunshot, makes the ending of this book incredibly bleak.
But Alex does such a fantastic job of making all of these characters individual people. The core quartet of Ruby, Liam, Chubs and Zu? I will follow them to the bitter end, even though along the way I may be wondering what I am doing in a post-apocalyptic plague/ dysphoria (which is really not my scene), but I am more than willing to trust Alex and see where she takes Black Betty's crew....
Note on Ruby and Clancy:
A) Alex has stated that Clancy did not rape Ruby. It was more the psychological and mental manipulation he was interested in, although there was definitely room for doubt when you read this.
B) Ruby's relationship with Clancy is obviously sexual tension/interest on Clancy's behalf. Their doing their lessons in such close proximity, on his bed
, screamed idiocy on Ruby's part. Until you remember that Ruby was taken when she was 10. She does not have that knowledge of boys and relationships (as evidenced on several occasions earlier) and has had absolutely no one to have discussed it with since she had no friends after Sam and the guards kept the boys and girls separated. In this light, what seems willfully foolish, if not dangerous behavior, makes a great deal more sense. And then add to that whatever mental/emotional manipulation Clancy had going on.