ACID - Emma Pass
Published April 25, 2013
Corgi Children's Books / Random House
YA Dystopian / Thriller
I found this book as I was looking through the Amazon new releases. What a lucky stumble-upon!
ACID is the debut novel of British author Emma Pass.
It is a Young Adult dystopian thriller. Originally, I just liked the cover, but reading the first chapter really sold me on it. I wouldn't usually pay £5 for a Kindle version of a book, but I was too impatient to wait for it to come in the post! Definitely worth the money though.
I think it's only been released in the UK so far, but you can buy it on the Book Depository or Amazon and they deliver worldwide.
The first chapter is available to read online, and this is what got me hooked. You can tell by the end of the first paragraph that this is going to be something different. I will only post what hooked me, and I hope it hooks you too!
Mileway Maximum Security Prison, Outer London
12th April 2113
The first time I notice the new inmate is when we’re all lined up outside our cells for morning head count. He’s standing five doors down from me, sneaking glances at the rest of us as the guards wave their wrist-scanners across our hips to read the spytags that are implanted when we first get here.
His blonde hair is cropped close and the white T-shirt straining across his gut is crisp and fresh; he must have arrived in the night. When his gaze lands on me, he does a double take, just as I knew he would. Watching him out of the corner of my eye, I can tell what he’s thinking as clearly as if he’d said it out loud: A girl? Here? What the hell?
And then, so quickly I almost miss it, a smile flickers across his lips, his eyes narrowing as his surprise turns to anticipation. A girl. Here. What’re the chances? I curl my lip into a snarl, half tempted to go over there and introduce him to my fists. What a creep. But what did I expect? At Mileway, I stand out like . . . well, like a seventeen-year-old female in a prison full of men.
One of the guards, dressed in a black ACID uniform, reaches me. ‘Strong, Jenna – Prisoner ID 4347X,’ he intones. I clasp my hands behind my back, gazing straight ahead, feeling Creep’s stare drilling into me. ‘What’s she in for?’ I hear him ask one of the other guards. The guard doesn’t answer, just scans his hip and moves on down the line.
Okay, lets get straight into it.
I liked Jenna. I thought it was unusual to have a main character who was strong and stuck to her guns. Even when she's unsure of herself, she still acts strong and makes the decisions.
There is a part of her that makes me want to be like her, but there is a darkness which I cannot relate to. Her whole life has been hacked and she wants retribution.
The major thing about this character that appealed to me was that she wasn't trying to seek romance. There was a romantic element, but it wasn't Insta-love or a love triangle. It was developed over time, with Jenna resisting it all the way. I liked that a lot. It was very realistic.
I liked the setting a lot as well. Britain has become isolated and has been renamed the IRB (Independent Republic of Britain) and is pretty much a police state. The country is ruled by General Harvey, head of the Agency for Crime Investigation and Defence (or the titular ACID) who is also Jenna's "one-time Godfather".
The whole country has gone to shit. There are food shortages, people on rations, bad sanitation.. And that's outside of the prisons.
Obviously, there are upper class areas. Jenna was originally from Upper and returns there under the guise of Jess Stone later on. London has been separated into three sections, Upper, Middle and Outer. Citizens living in Upper are very privileged, but outer is depicted how I would expect Scunthorpe is (from watching Skint on 4oD, I've never been there!) People can get arrested for anything, and it's a surprise that prisons aren't overcrowded. We don't get a look at many other places in the IRB, but can assume most places are a lot like Outer or Middle, with only London having an Upper.
I would have liked to have gotten more of a feel for the world situation, but it's not relevant to the story. I just would like to see a wider picture. The population seems to be a lot smaller. I say this because the IRB citizens cannot leave, they go on holidays to the countryside. This is probably controlled by the partnership scheme that is in place, like in Matched. Most people are LifePartnered and then get notifications when they can start to conceive.
That seems to be a recurring theme in Dystopian novels - population control.
I don't usually read stand alone novels, not through choice, just because publishers are coming out with more and more trilogies. I was wondering, because this is a debut novel, whether this would be the start of a series and was surprised to discover that it wasn't.
I thought Pass brought a different format to her novel. It felt like a collection of short stories about Jenna Strong because of the way the book was divided into different sections and identities. That's right, different identities. This is what makes it a great standalone novel.
At the time of reading, it felt like some of the plots were a bit disconnected, but once I thought about it in short story format, I felt more relaxed. Time passes quite quickly between the different sections as well, which builds the short story theory. Can I call it a theory?
Anyway, I think the style is similar to that of a short TV series and could quite easily be adapted.
There were parts which I thought could be more developed. The time spent with the NAR was interesting, but after that section they weren't mentioned again until the epilogue. That wasn't a problem for me, because I didn't like the NAR, but it would have been interesting to hear a little more about what they'd been up to.
I read a review by NoseGraze that I didn't completely agree with.
"The author feeds us some sneak peaks of what is to come, and promises us information and background story! ....which we don't get until about 250 pages later."There is a reason for this. When Jenna is broken out of prison, the group don't want her to be able to tell ACID who helped her to escape, so she is kept in the dark. Actually, she is kept in the dark a lot. It's important to them that Jenna doesn't know, and so we don't know either. That's what makes it thrilling, the mystery. Of course, we are given sneak peaks into what is happening that Jenna does not.
These come in the form of news documents and private files. I love when books have these. They rack up the intrigue like there's no tomorrow.
They make the back story a little easier to figure out, but we don't always find things out with Jenna which would make it more exciting.
One thing which was easy to figure out was the identity of Jenna's birth mother. Once this concept was introduced, it was very to figure out that her mother would be a high ranking official, and when the character is introduced you make the connection in a second. However, Jenna has no clue that it's going on so when the reunion comes, it's awkward. She deals with it very well, though, because it's not something she has to immediately worry about. She finds a way to put it out of her mind, one could say...
Once she has recovered from her brainwashing, she becomes a hell of a lot more compassionate. I think knowing that what really happened was not her fault has quelled some of the anger in her, and knowing that only one of her parents is dead has helped. From this point she is not self-motivated but fights to help the country. This selflessness is really endearing and I'm glad that she manages to become a better person as shown in the epilogue.
Another thing I liked was that while I was tweeting about how much I was enjoying the book, the author tweeted me back to say she was glad I was enjoying it!
All in all, this was a really great story. I'm really happy to have stumbled upon it. What a brilliant debut, I can't wait to read more by Emma Pass.
Have any of you read this yet? Would you like to?