Book Reviews

[review] Possession – Elana Johnson

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself. 

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them…starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous–everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn. 

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Discovery: You’re probably sick of seeing this, but again, this was a book I discovered through lots of buzz on blogs. A lot of the blogs I follow are apparently friends with Ms. Johnson.

+     Interesting premise. I love dystopian fiction and my favourites are often the novels that deal with emotions and their role in society, or non-existence as the case may be. Sure, rational thought may differentiate humans from animals but emotions add a whole other dimension to existence. The elimination of touch from the world of Possession is a development that raises the stakes.

–     Plotting. I’ve never read a novel that confused me from the first page. I’m not talking just uncertainty about what’s happening. I mean flat-out-I-think-I-got-run-over-by-a-train-and-developed-amnesia confusion. If Elana Johnson meant her story to start in media res, she did it. She just didn’t do it well. For most of the book, I felt like I missed a handbook of crucial information. Vi is arrested within the first ten pages, and yet I still had no idea what kind of world I’d stepped into.  Each chapter is full of disjointed scenes and shoddy dialogue. All of the characters are connected to each other, but the descriptions are written so badly that the dozens of characters in Game of Thrones are easier to remember. I may have finished the book, but to be quite honest, I can’t tell you how it got to the end.

–     Poor world-building. Dystopian novels require careful handling because they literally build a whole other society from the ground up. This particular novel brought in touches of science-fiction, but failed to bring them together in a coherent manner. I rarely felt like the story was something that could only have happened in Vi’s futuristic society, but rather like something I could find on SyFy’s Friday night movie. There may have been differences, such as the Thinkers and mind control, but the story is so disorganized that they fall by the wayside. It’s a shame because a good dystopian helps the reader to understand the world before disliking it.

–     Lackluster characters. Part of this may be the confusion talking, but I just didn’t care for any of the characters in this novel. All of them seem to be cardboard cutouts: Vi is the sarcastic protagonist, Zenn the calm, rational love interest, Jag the bad boy who tempts Vi away from a normal life. Even Vi’s enemies are laughable in their restraint. Vi’s narration also left a lot to be desired–I can’t be the only one annoyed by the constant reminder that she communicates in “Vi-speak.” As the protagonist, she doesn’t seem to display any interests besides being “bad,” but does she actually understand what that word means? The poor world-building comes into play here because how can a character be developed as a foil to the world she lives in, when that world is just as shallowly illustrated? Does she actually care about anything at all?

Recommendations: I would not recommend this book, because I’m still not sure that it’s a complete book at all. I feel like it’s a draft that needs more work and substance to really succeed, and the writing will leave critical readers hanging.

Rating: Poor.

You can find Elana Johnson at her website.

Next review: Undeniably Yours, Shannon Stacey

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