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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
Kitty Doe is in a bit of bind; she's been officially marked as a III. AND she's been assigned to work in Denver, so far away from DC that she has not chance of ever coming back to visit her boyfriend, Benjy. Her choice is either accept her assignment and live her life compliantly or risk death to defy them and stay in DC. Then a third option presents itself: become a VII. Before she can even get all the details, she has agreed because anything is better than prostitution or life as a III, right? Turns out she has agreed to impersonate Lila, the prime minister's daughter, and that includes major masking (basically plastic surgery) to make her identical to said daughter. It seems, however, that Lila was on the brink of starting a rebellion and it's now up to Kitty to continue her work or put an end to it. With every person aware of the situation she gets different instructions, but which set would she choose to follow?
For someone who claims to be tired of dystopian novels, I'm reading bunchies of them lately. This, however, didn't have that overly predictable edge that seems to cloud over most of the ones I read. Yes, the government has gotten too powerful and need to be taught a lesson, but beyond that basic idea, I didn't see much of this coming. Aimee Carter really gets high praise from me for being able to keep me guessing through this entire novel. I have already been planning on reading her Goddess Test series for a while now, but I'm definitely more excited after reading this. The levels of this particular brand of dystopian made more sense than others I've read. At 17, everyone is given a test and their school determines what level of society they will be part of, the brains getting to be scientists or something equally important as V's or VI's and the more intellectually challenged individuals get the lower level jobs like farming and cleaning. If you score a I, then you are deemed too dumb to be part of society and are sent Elsewhere. Theoretically everyone has an equal chance at being a higher-up, but once Kitty gets her VII, she realizes that it might not be as fair as she has been lead to believe.
Speaking of Kitty, let's get down to the characters, shall we? She was easy to sympathize with in the beginning, being marked with a III and forced to leave her sweet Benjy. As the novel progresses, I was equally in supportive of and irritated with her. It's a tough choice she's faced with and I know that Benjy's life is threatened with every move she makes, but either go and help the rebellion or live under Augusta's thumb. Most of the time, a character's inner struggle with doing what's right versus what's expected is humanizing and grounding and makes it that much easier to connect, but here it bordered on annoying. By the end, though, she's made her mind up so hopefully book 2 won't contain so much inner monologue antagonizing over every decision.
Knox, Lila's fiance, is a big mystery. I really wanted to like him (and did enjoy his sarcasm and wit), but he was too secretive for me (or Kitty) to ever really trust. He comes off a little too smooth so you know he has to be hiding something. Then there is Benjy, Kitty's boyfriend. He's so smart that no one has a doubt he'll score well on his test, and...wait for it...he's bookish! There are so few bookish males in YA that I can't help falling for every single one.
Something else that may spark some interest is the lack of a love triangle. Kitty and Benjy are so adorably devoted to one another that no one has any hope of coming between them. I was very apprehensive when Knox entered the picture, but nothing beyond friendship ever develops between the two. Can I say how much I really loved that? How refreshing it was to read a character who doesn't discover someone new and drop her former "love" like a hot potato?
But my favorite character by far was Greyson. He's so observant that he catches onto EVERYTHING, especially the things his family tries to hide from him, like the fact that the real Lila is dead and Kitty is her replacement. Somehow in this family of manipulative asshats, he has managed to become a kind and compassionate young man. All he wants is to be able to spend his days tinkering with his inventions, but he's forced to train for his future role as Prime Minister.
Carter's biggest success here has to be the villain. Augusta strikes fear in everyone, but wholeheartedly believes in her cause. Despite the fact that I desperately wanted this bitch to die, it was fascinating to listen to her logic and come close to admiring her for doing what she believed was right for her country, regardless of the consequences. It was eerie to read a character so devoted to their cause that they were not only willing to murder for it, but sacrifice their loved ones if that is what it took.
This reminded me a great deal of Sarah Zettel's Palace Of Spies, with the body doubles impersonating royalty but learning that everyone around is lying or feeding her half truths. It is a fresh twist on a genre that is running a bit ragged. I recommend it for those who love all things dystopian, for those who are tired of the genre, and for those who have never tried it. It has enough intrigue to keep everyone guess and dying to get the next page to find out what happens, a light romance, and witty prose. It has something for everyone and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next one!
****Thank you to Harlequin Teen for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****