Placement in Series: Book 1
Author: Lee Strauss
Eternal Life is To Die For.
Seventeen year old Zoe Vanderveen is a GAP—a genetically altered person. She lives in the security of a walled city on prime water-front property along-side other equally beautiful people with extended life spans.
Her brother Liam is missing.
Noah Brody is a natural who lives on the outside. He leads protests against the GAPs and detests the widening chasm they’ve created between those who have and those who don’t. He doesn’t like girls like Zoe and he has good reason not to like her specifically.
Zoe’s carefree life takes a traumatic turn. She’s in trouble and it turns out that Noah, the last guy on earth she should trust, is the only one who can help her.
Spoiler warning: I touch on some scenes in the book, but no major plot twists or events are spoiled.
The concept of this book was really fascinating. Set in a futuristic world where technology has advanced incredibly, humans (who can afford the procedure) are genetically enhanced so they live longer (to about 200 years old!) and physically age slower. Our main character, Zoe, lives in a large, protected city known as Sol. She is blonde-haired and blue-eyed and white-skinned like the other GAPs (genetically altered persons), living separately from The Outside, or Los Angeles, as the 'normal' people call it. People on The Outside live far less perfect lives than those in Sol, and do not have access to the procedures to become GAPs (and most don't want to, proving so by holding rallies protesting the genetic alterations).
Then Zoe's brother dies mysteriously, and she goes on a hunt to solve the mystery of his death. And it seems everyone in her life (parents, boyfriend) is hiding something from her.
Throw in science versus ethics and a forbidden romance, and you've got my attention.
Present it to me as it is written in Perception, and you've lost me.
I'm not even going to get into the whole 'all GAPs are beautiful and caucasian and blonde with blue eyes' thing, because I'm sure you can guess how much that in itself annoys me. I read the Uglies series (gee, another disappointing story on genetically altering humans*), and I don't remember if people's skin colour was changed, but I wouldn't doubt it. This is not okay, people.
Disclaimer: not blaming the author on this one - it is all a part of the story. And that's why I'm not going to go into it, because it is not something I find to be a fault in the book itself. I just wish this was also touched on more in Perception.
Touched on more?
What else do I think should be touched on more in Perception?
Hmm, well let's see...
While the plot seriously interested me, I was extremely disappointed in how it all played out. The only reason I continued to read past the halfway point (when I knew this book was doomed) was because I wanted to know how it would play out. It wasn't the premise that was the problem, but the many factors in the book (characters, plot development, length, writing) that worked against it and had me gritting my teeth and biting back the urge to yell at my e-reader.
I apologise for the extreme negativity contained in this review, but it was unable to be helped.
Let's start with the main character, Zoe. Zoe is naive (understandable, since she grew up sheltered as a GAP), but she never grows out of it. She's also emotionless. Her brother dies, and sure, she's upset. But she acts as if he was merely keeping a secret from her, not that he died and is never coming back. In fact, no one in the book reacted very much when Zoe's brother died. Her mother (who Zoe refers to by her first name - Zoe refers to both her parents by their first names, because she doesn't feel 'connected' to them) was clearly upset by the death of Liam. But she was the only one. And everyone else was acting as if the mother couldn't handle life or something because she was so upset that her son died.
So yeah, there was that. Thankfully Zoe is at least trying to find out what happened, but I don't believe it's her way of grieving. I don't believe she's grieving at all. I think she's just offended that no one will tell her what is going on.
Zoe also fails to react (except for her knees giving out in shock) when she finds out something shocking about her past (she says vaguely, to avoid spoiling anyone who has yet to read the book and wants to). What she learns is so incredibly life-altering (haha, get it? Because she is literally already altered being a GAP? Sorry. Moving on), but she doesn't stop to think about it. There's no internal monologue about it, and it's not brought up until she randomly lashes out at her grandfather. But even all that is is a sarcastic comeback telling her grandfather that she knows the secret about herself, and then that's it. She hardly brings it up again. Not even internally. And this book is written in the first person. There is no excuse.
A bit more on Zoe's lack of... thought, for lack of a better term at the moment. Her boyfriend is being extremely shady throughout the whole first half of the book, and never once does she think 'Why am I with this boy who acts like he knows something about my brother's death, but won't tell me about it? And why am I with him when he basically ignores me after my brother dies - a moment in which I need him the most? And why do I continue to be with him after all of that plus the fact that I am now finding the maid's son to be attractive and I want to kiss him really, really badly?' (more on that later)
Zoe! Your boyfriend is being shady about your brother's mysterious death and barely even comforts you in your (basically non-existent - but that's besides the point) time of mourning! DUMP HIM!
She also infuriated me with her obsession over the maid's son. His mother is extremely sick and he leaves her to go visit her in the hospital, and doesn't call Zoe right away, and Zoe is paranoid he hates her. Out of no where she just starts thinking he's going to leave her. Because when he called her to give her the update on his mom, he sounded strained. He called her and she thinks he doesn't want to be together. Zoe is not a character anyone should look up to.
So about those romantic feelings for the maid's son...
Zoe doesn't pay Noah (maid's son) much attention until she realises his functionability in figuring out what happened to her brother. Now, I don't believe she's using Noah, no. I just also don't believe how she fell for him in an instant at this point. Out of no where she's realising how attractive he is and hoping that he'll be attracted to her. Meanwhile, she's still with her shady GAP boyfriend.
But the worst part?
Noah thinks of Zoe as filth. She's a genetically altered person who believes in everything he's against. But the day after Zoe enlists his help to solve the Liam mystery, he's into her like he hasn't spent hours of his time at rallies against GAPs and loathing her family. It made no sense to me. This was one romance that I could not get into. I wanted to; the idea of their forbidden romance was a predictable plot point, but an intriguing one. Sadly, it was developed poorly.
It had its ups and its down. Singular. Down. They had one fight that lasted half of a page. Noah realised he didn't belong in Sol because he wasn't a GAP and Zoe's 'friends' turned their nose up at him. Zoe chases after him and after only maybe three days of knowing him properly and one day after kissing him, declares that she'll leave the only home she's ever known to be with him.
There was no emotional build-up. The romance just happened and we readers are just supposed to believe it. Count me out.
Also underdeveloped was Zoe's relationship with her friends. They only appeared to nudge the plot along slightly. Zoe needed an escape from her house, and suddenly her best friend (who isn't mentioned until 90+ pages in - more than halfway through the story, folks) is on a trip and Zoe's pretending this best friend is home a day early.
There were several plot holes, like when she sneaks out of the house and her father tries calling her, but she ignores him. And then when she returns home, there's no mention of her getting reprimanded. The way she left her house had me thinking she wasn't going to return until everything was solved - she was basically on house arrest at that point, because her parents didn't want her seeing the maid's son. But then she sneaks out and nothing happens? *frowns*
I wish there was more focus on the story at hand. What I read feels like it was a first draft the author wrote down to get all of their ideas out in front of them, for them to embellish on later. The characters as well as the plot need some extreme fleshing out. And for a futuristic story about genetically altered humans, 150 pages just doesn't seem enough to tell the story. And it doesn't. A few other reviews I've read pointed out that Perception felt like it was a summary of a book. Someone wrote down all of the basic plot points and left out all of the development and emotion and voila! Perception.
The last quarter of the book is told from an entirely differect point of view. All of a sudden we reach 'part 2' of the book, and it is told in Noah's point of view. While I enjoyed Noah's point of view better than I did Zoe's, I thought this was really odd, and it threw me off. I want through most of the book in one person's perspective, only to be thrown into an entirely different person's mind for the last few chapters. This part could have been extended to the length that Zoe's part was - everything that happened in Noah's chapters felt rushed, and the final plot twist was solved way too conveniently for my taste.
In summation, good premise, bad delivery. Perception needs a lot of fleshing out. I hope the sequel is given more attention. I might read it to see if it improves and to see where this story goes, because like I said before, I really like the idea.
Rating: 2/5 - Just didn't do it for me.
Recommended for: No one? The only reason I finished this one was to find out how it ended, and because it was so short.
*I've so far read three stories about genetically altering humans. Perception is the latest, Uglies was the first, and Origin (Jessica Khoury) was the second. Origin was fantastic, by the way. So it can be done right.