Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review | The Burning of Cherry Hill

The Burning of Cherry Hill by A.K. Butler
Review by Aeryn
March 2013 by Flexicon House
337 pages
Amazon + Good Reads

"It's 2159. Zay Scot is a fourteen-year-old boy raised on a secret island in hiding from a government he doesn't know exists. After more than a decade of avoiding detection, his fugitive parents are brutally kidnapped and he is thrust into a dizzying world centuries more advanced than the one he left behind.

The skies over the United North American Alliance are pollution free. Meals are healthy and delivered to each home. Crime is nonexistent. Medical treatment requires only the scan of your wrist. Poverty, need, and hunger are things studied in history class.

But Zay soon finds himself a fugitive, escaping the brute force of a government always a whisper away. Now he must choose between peace and freedom, and if the journey doesn't kill him, what he finds might start a war."
-Good Reads

Going into The Burning of Cherry Hill, I’d set myself up for an epic dystopian tale that would stick with me…or at least make me feel something. Anything. Anger, disgust, mistrust of the future. Seriously, anything. This book did not deliver. 

To quickly summarize, Zay and Lina Scott’s simple and pleasant life is swept when away when their island is attacked, and everyone/everything they’ve ever known is burned to the ground. They are brought to the Mainland, on which a highly structured society doles out food to every citizen three times a day, crime is deterred and punished by a “trial of peers” that literally includes the entire nation, and federal programs regulate pretty much everything else (money, education, jobs, the orphaned…). Life is meant to be “easy” in the sense that one doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from or having a roof over his head.

But the country has its secrets, too. Secrets such as phone/message tapping, human trafficking, and a “breeding program” that legalizes the rape of fertile females—and even offers rewards for successful impregnation. 

Through a series of events, Zay and Lina start to uncover these secrets and ultimately become outlaws. The story follows them as they travel across the country (while on the run) to the facility of Cherry Hill, where the majority of these practices take place. With the help of some unusual characters, Zay and Lina manage to bring the secrets of Cherry Hill—and the government—to light.    

My biggest issue with this book was the lack of emotional depth. For instance, when Zay is led to believe that his best friend, Hope, burned in the fire that consumed his home, he barely has a reaction. At first, I thought that maybe the author was playing at shock, that Zay simply could not express the grief he felt for his friend. But as the story went on, he barely mentioned her…and when he did, it was to compare her to another girl. This just didn’t seem realistic to me, and such scenarios cropped up repeatedly over the course of the book. 

That being said, I felt like the book relied greatly on shock value in attempt get a reaction out of the reader. It felt more like an after school special, one that’s trying to educate me on the woefulness of society, instead a story that urged me to come to my own conclusions on what’s wrong with the world.

The writing, overall, was pretty good. Maybe not my style, or usual taste, but certainly not bad. There were a few times, particularly in the “action” scenes that I got a little confused—people did odd things with their bodies, or seemed to jump from one side of the room to the other with little explanation—but those issues might be cleared up with a second read through on my part.

I will say it was definitely interesting to read this book in conjunction with all the issues/secrets that have been “leaked” in the past few months. Whether that speaks for The Burning of Cherry Hill, I’m not sure. I think it can definitely be said that there is always potential for our governments to lie to us, and that those brave enough to sacrifice everything in order to reveal those secrets deserve to have their stories told. And no, that was not a political statement.

Final thoughts: If you like world building, conspiracy, or dystopian type novels that are full of action, The Burning of Cherry Hill will be a good read for you. If you like a book that is emotionally gripping (or has any sort of actual romance), maybe you should pass this one up. Or, if you are like me and unsure which category you fall into, you could give a go. What’s the worst that could happen?

Did you enjoy this review? Check out Aeryn's blog for more by her! 

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