Saturday, 16 July 2016

Freedom/Hate by Kyle Andrews

Publication date: 19th April, 2016
Published by: Independent author
Genre: Sci-fi/Dystopia (YA)

Publication synopsis:
Collin Powers knows the truth. As a low ranking member of an underground movement, his job is to transport some of the most illicit materials in the city... Books. When a simple exchange goes wrong, Collin is forced to run. Now wanted for terrorism and murder, he is desperate and alone. The world believes that he is a monster, but the only thing Collin wants is freedom.

As news of the fugitive filters through the city, high school student Libby Jacobs is just trying to make it through her everyday life. A terrorist is murdering people in the streets. Her mother is sick, and getting worse every day. Her cousin is hiding a dangerous secret, which could threaten her entire family. The truth is something that Libby doesn't want to know. It will tear her world apart. It will bring her face to face with everything that she has always been taught to hate.

Warning: I fear I may be guilty of metaphor abuse in the writing of this review. 

My Review:
Freedom/Hate is a new offering of YA Dystopia in an ever extending line of novels that cover similar themes, such as Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Veronica Roth's Divergent.  For me, the one that it resembled most was Ally Condie's Matched series.  Both that book and this one owe a debt to Ray Bradbury's masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451.  There are no firemen who burn books for a living, but in both these oppressed societies, paper books have become virtually extinct and the ones that do are banned.  Only the government-produced electronic kind are freely available.  This theme is used to symbolise the loss of freedom of independent thought and, in today's world, I understand the motivation to do so. 

Collin Powers is an (accidental) hero who finds himself being used as the face of the (non-existent) terrorist organisation, Hate, made up by the society's rulers as their main form of propaganda against the (real) rebel organisation, Freedom.  Here it parallels with the Hunger Games - Katniss Everdeen's popularity was used by both the rebels and President Snow as a means of manipulation to either motivate or control the population.

Where this novel parts company with the above-mentioned YA Dystopia is in it's characterisation.  Freedom/Hate is very much character-driven (as opposed to plot-driven) .  Libby, the female protagonist, bears no resemblance to what is in danger of becoming the stereo-typical 'strong female character who, against the odds, rebels and takes on the powerful oppressors', type usually found in books of this kind.  Don't get me wrong, Libby is no damsel-in-distress, and she is not stupid, either.  But she has been drinking the Cool Aid and, as such, has been brain-washed into believing all the negative media coverage about Collin Powers and Hate.  I found this a refreshing change that made her interesting as a character.  I liked this about the book. She does not ask the questions she should be asking when things don't add up, instead preferring to accept the status quo, not because she is too dumb to see what is going on, but preferring to bury her head in the sand, because she wants as quiet and trouble-free a life as she can get.  I was also glad that her character is consistent throughout (it would have been disappointing if her behaviour would have 'flip-flopped' for the sake of contrivance).

If I were to offer constructive criticism about this book, it would be that the writing style does not quite work.  The book is mostly descriptive where it should be mostly demonstrative.  I think the latter is essential for Dystopian novels.  Unfortunately, as a result, the foundation laid down in the construction of this Dysoptian world is rather weak.  For most of the book it's not really clear what happened, why or how this terrible world came to be.  Although sometime in the future, it's not clear when the story is taking place.  The result was that I was not engaged enough to feel anything, which is a problem.  At times the characters have conversations that clearly serve as a way of explaining what is happening to we the readers, rather than to one another. I often thought, 'okay, if you say so narrator, I believe you.'  Instead I should have been drawing my own conclusions and anticipating what would come next.  I should have been engaged enough to feel outrage, anxiety for the characters, and all the other stuff  that makes a book Dystopian. Instead, I was completely detached.

The novel is a 'slow-burner' and, although there are some action scenes, a lot of it is about Collin and Libby trying to make sense of what is going on around them.  As is often the case with slow-burners, it does get more interesting as it progresses, and by the end there is intrigue and hints of even more interesting things to come in the sequel. Despite Freedom/Hate's flaws, I want to know where the story is heading, so I'll certainly be getting hold of a copy of Blood Rights when it comes out on the (appropriately timed) 4th of July, 2016.

Freedom/Hate is a recommended 2016 Summer Read

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