Tuesday, January 28, 2014


In Pawn, a young adult dystopian novel by Aimee Carter, Kitty is a girl on the brink of adulthood, getting ready to take the test everyone takes at seventeen, the results of which forever brand you with a number. She just wants a IV so she can have enough to eat and not be separated from her boyfriend. Anything under a IV is bad, the dregs of society, the bumbling idiots. And only the members of one family, the ruling family, get to have a VII. So, when Kitty scores a III and then is given a chance no one else gets to change her number to a VII, she accepts the offer blindly, thus becoming embroiled in a dangerous family feud. It doesn't take long for her to realize that her gift comes at the highest cost, and if she doesn't cooperate, she and those she loves will lose a lot more than numbers.

The premise is interesting, though not unique. Kiera Cass has done something similar in The Selection. What's different about this is that Kitty has to become an entirely new person. She gets Masked, and her whole appearance is made to be the exact replica of another girl, Lila Hart. But she also has to learn to act and talk like Lila. Kitty does this surprisingly quickly, perhaps too quickly, and she never seems to have a solid handle on it, making me wonder how she's supposed to be fooling anyone.

But what kept me reading was the intrigue. Kitty finds herself involved in a battle, and each side wants her for their own. Those on one side want the country to stay as it is. They need Kitty to recant Lila's public viewpoints, and that side is the one Kitty needs to listen to in order to survive. The other side wants the opposite: for Kitty to finish the work of her predecessor (the same work that got her killed) and give hope to the lower echelons of society in order to start a revolution. Though Kitty would love her society to change and be a place of freedom once again, she's not sure whether it's worth the risk.

The back-and-forth pull of right and wrong on a girl who just wanted one number higher is what gives this story resonance (and its title). Morality is part of the package; you can't avoid the discussion. Kitty clearly decides it's worth the deception to live, but is the deception worth killing for, too? There are some shockers, both in plot and morals, but author Aimee Carter doesn't let them go to waste. When morality is at stake, she delves into it, and as far as the twists of the story itself, it's clear the repercussions will continue into the sequel.

Pawn was released in December of 2013. Three stars.

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