Renegade by J.A. Souders
Published: November 13, 2012
Source: Finished copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
___Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.
But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.
Her memories have been altered.
Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.
And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.
Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.
He pulls back and I'm sure I'm in for another lecture, but then his mouth crushes down on mine, his hands traveling over every available space on my body. I'm so shocked I don't do anything. This kiss is different from our others. Way different. My heart thunders in my ears and kicks in my chest. My breath turns ragged. My head spins but this time there's no panic. Only surprise. And pleasure. - Page 253
Renegade is the debut offering from author J.A. Souders, and although I was frustrated at times with several examples of immaturity throughout this story, ultimately I was intrigued enough to follow it through to the end. With this underwater dystopian, our heroine faces realizing nothing is true about her life, and does so with emerging strength, which I found inspiring.
The world building is a source of conflict for me. While I thought choosing to set Renegade in an underwater utopia was a brilliant move for this premise, I was confused at the need for guards, and the shadowy, brutal Enforcers. There were several aspects of the society that I found really compelling and hope to learn more about. However, despite the fact that characters reference modern day technology, (video games, horror movies,) the world outside Elysium seems to be set in older times, (Gavin references a hunter-gatherer society with an antiquated government). I wish there was more clarification on that point and can only assume the sequel will provide this. There was a great deal of telling via info dump in Souders' book, which I disliked.
The characters in Renegade were another source of frustration. Evelyn, or Evie, is an extremely unreliable narrator, which adds another level of creepy to an already uneasy read. At times naive and lost, Evie made some very questionable - and downright stupid - decisions, but I felt sorry for her, and wanted to follow her story to see if she grew any. Alas, that's another reason to read the sequel - she does show strength, but I was hoping for more maturity from her.. However I can say that the secondary characters were fascinating, especially Gavin. I really enjoyed him, and thought his voice was refreshing. I'm looking forward to watching his romance with Evie mature, since it, like so many in YA books, happened almost instantly, and relied on circumstance rather than moments of substance, to build their feelings. The Mother character was terrifying, and I'll likely have nightmares about her, her actions, and what she allowed to happen in Renegade. She was a truly scary villain, and I applaud J.A. Souders for her creativity.
While a frustrating book, Renegade does offer a great deal of important questions about sense of self, family, and free will. The love story, while very fast, is still sweet at times. And despite a few circular moments, and immaturity in the writing, I will probably read the sequel/s. (Especially after THAT ending!) I think this author will grow and mature along with her characters, and I'm curious to see how that goes! It wasn't a perfect read for me, but it was a book with potential, so I'd definitely recommend you read it for yourself!
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Thanks to Tor Teen, I have TWO finished copies of Renegade up for grabs!