Earlier this year I was tooling around twitter and happened to catch tweet advertising #bookishchristmas being hosted by @oh_chrys of Oh, Chrys!. What was it? A Secret Santa gift exchange for book bloggers. I got the Christmas bug early and eagerly signed up. You could request whatever you wanted, so I stuck with my favorites: fantasy, paranormal and dystopian and asked for either adult or young adult, so that I’d give gifter a lot to choose from.
And what did I get from @KaylaDeGroote (The Bibliophilic Nerds)?
The Farm, by Emily McKay – a young adult dystopia story with vampires. Awesome, right? Eh…
Unfortunately, this book is one of those titles where the premise sounds cool, but the author just doesn’t execute. The story and characters are largely unremarkable and don’t leave an impact, except maybe the autistic Mel, whom I’ll get to in a moment.
Before I go further, here’s the main blurb on the back of the book:
“Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are – holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…
And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.”
See that line that I bolded? Someone at the publishing company grabbed onto that line, and immediately thought HUNGER GAMES! Why? Because the blurb on the front of the book says:
“Equal parts Resident Evil and Hunger Games – and just as thrilling.”
Man did that set me up for disappointment. When they invoked Hunger Games, I got this image in my mind of teens fighting each other, fighting for the right to not be vampire chow. What do we actually get? Collaborators. Teens turned prison guards over their fellow captives for perks and the right to continue to survive. That’s not Hunger Games. That’s human nature. That’s exactly what happened in the Nazi concentration camps. There is literally nothing else that you could claim was Hunger Games inspired here – that series certainly didn’t invent the dystopian genre.
As for Resident Evil? That’s an equal stretch. There technically is a company behind the Ticks, but the novel quite literally spends three lines on this, so it’s hard to know how culpable they really are. They certainly aren’t the main bad guy. There are no zombies and Lily only wishes she was Jill Valentine.
That’s actually another problem with this book: we never actually meet the main bad guy! We get a name (Roberto) but we never see him. The book is largely spent running from the mindless Ticks (think the feral vampires from the manhwa/film Priest) and a man known as the Dean, whom, while bad, doesn’t really feel like a villain but more like a henchman, which he pretty much is. We really learn much about Roberto, other than the reason he is after Lily, but that’s it. It ultimately doesn’t create that much tension. They just seem to be running because it’s a smart thing to do.
As for the characters? They exist. You don’t particularly care for either Lily or Carter. Lily, in a guise of selfless desire to protect her twin, comes off as selfish with her continued attempts to run off half-cocked and nearly getting herself (and the party) killed, not to mention being incredibly judgement of Breeders – girls who choose to deliberately get pregnant to buy themselves a few extra months of life. The world as you know it has come to an end, who is she to cast moral judgement on their decisions? Carter, a good guy, is presented in such a way at the beginning that you spend more time than you probably should growing to like the guy. There’s no chemistry between him or Lily and that whole subplot could have been dropped to no ill effect.
The last character I’ll mention is Mel – LIly’s autistic twin sister. At first, I wanted to applaud the author for going there. We just don’t see a lot of autistic characters, let alone in genre fic. The problem is that the Austism Doesn’t Work That Way. A character doesn’t go from Aspergers to can only speak in rhyme while playing with a slinky. There’s regression, yes, but that just strains credulity. Add to that the reveal towards of the end of the book and it starts to feel exploitative and I really don’t like where that character ended up, it just seemed cruel given where Mel was at at the time emotionally. It ultimately served to highlight Lily’s selfishness more than anything.
Finally, the book is told via alternating points of view. It’s pointless. You gain nothing from it. I honestly suspect that the real reason the author did it is that she wanted to get literary and was able to use Mel as a vehicle to do so.
If I’m hard on this book it’s because the book allowed me to be hard on it. A good book will suck you in (no vampire pun intended) to the point where you can overlook the flaws. This book wound up being generic enough for me that every little last thing bothered me. And that’s not a good sign.
If it weren’t for the fact that I got this as a gift, it may have been a DNF for me.
Verdict: Skip it. One day I will read/see a good mix of dystopia and vampires (True Blood seems to be heading that direction) but this unfortunately isn’t it
[Side note: I would totally do #bookishchristmas again, just because I didn’t enjoy the book as much as the gifter did doesn’t mean that I’m upset from the process. You never know what will work for you and what won’t. If its around again, I’ll do it again!]