Centuries after the apocalypse, Ava Rhodes is competing to inherit the title of Queen of the City Center. Before she can realise her destiny, Ava meets Joseph, a guy from the Outside. The vague discontent she has always felt allows her to listen when he tells her that her existence and the City, itself, are basically one big lie.
She escapes with him and begins an adventure in cross purposes. She wants to stay with Joseph, but those she left behind are in serious trouble. Though she feels little loyalty to her fellow candidates, Ava does understand they are as duped as she was and that even winning places in the royal court won’t guarantee them a happy ever after. The Outsiders have other plans, however.
Essentially, ‘The City Center’ by Simone Pond explores a future dystopia. It’s a popular theme for Young Adult fiction and this book doesn’t deviate far from the formula of young and beautiful people grinding their heels into the necks of an oppressive and apparently deluded older generation. If I was sixteen, I’d think it was a fantastic story. Even on the heels of ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’, I’d feel like I was reading my own calling.
As an adult an unspecified number of decades beyond sixteen, I could appreciate the story for what it was. Not the most original tale, but somewhat differently told. The previous apocalypse is sound and the absolute control over the City’s citizens somewhat believable. The existence of the Outsiders is a well-used given. No empire is absolute.
Where I had difficulty was in the character of Ava. She and her fellow candidates live a pampered life that reads like one long beauty pageant. Their entire existence centres on how they look and how they’ll perform. Given the intelligence required to grasp the simplest concepts of their existence, I found it difficult to believe they didn’t question more. Ava had ‘feelings’ but drifted over them with the help of some chemical cocktails. Of course, she’s also meant to be different. She’s the ‘chosen one’, after all.
Her relationship or, more properly, ‘attachment’ to Joseph felt very naïve. Then again, I’m many decades beyond first blush, too. The intended audience of this book might believe in their crush.
Despite these criticisms, the book is solid, however. The plot works and the action is taut. The revelations before the conclusion are properly shocking and quite insidious. ‘The City Center’ might just be another novel of teenage dystopia, but it does deliver a good story. Recommended for the young and the restless.
(pub: Ktown Waters Publishing. 322 page paperback. Price: $10.22 (US), £ 5.28 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-61588-911-5)
check out website: www.simonepond.com/