Windy City Reviews: The Rebel Within

(Reviewed by Serena Wadhwa)

In this dystopian YA novel, Annabelle is a typical 16-year-old girl living a not-so-typical adolescent life. Taking place after the Second American Civil War, the books describes how Annabelle lives in a world where everything is monitored to enforce harmony, where uniformity thrives, and being different has consequences. Losing her parents at the age of three, Annabelle is later adopted by a woman whom she respectfully calls “Mom.” Mom, a state senator, fights for girls and women to have opportunities in the government-controlled world. “Mechs”—female warriors who are trained to protect the state, enforce harmony, and capture fugitive males—are also the ones who destroyed Annabelle’s family. Males are viewed as the enemy in this female-dominant world. Yet Annabelle struggles with common issues for individuals her age: doing what’s right by the society she lives in versus doing what’s right for her, as well as trying to understand the physical and emotional reactions she experiences when she sees a boy. Erlick gives the reader a view of what it is like for Annabelle to live in a world where male connections are forbidden and people disappear if they are not promoting “harmony.” Yet Annabelle yearns for some independence, some freedom, and to know who she really is.

“No telling who might post my thoughts. Soc-net police are on the lookout for any backlash against the Federal Union.” In Erlick’s America, privacy is a thing of the past, but for Annabelle, it’s something she wants to fight for: the right to be independent, to think for herself, and to pursue her own dreams.

Annabelle also vigilantly tries to find her biological mother, despite the consequences of getting caught: “ …rows of metal desks have virtual computers, where I’ve tried to access information on Dorothy Montgomery, my birth mother. It’s not that Mom hasn’t been good to me; she has. I don’t like the Federal Union forbidding me from finding by birth mother. The desks can’t access out-of-state records without going through a department filter. That would ID my search and land me in another prison far away. “

Erlick does a good job of bringing the characters to life, vividly bringing to the reader the ways in which Annabelle overcomes obstacles and distractions in following her passion and discovering her mission. Annabelle is a believable adolescent fighting for what she believes in: “I speed to school. This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, yet it feels right. All I have to do is get Janine to go home with Mom and tell them I have to return Brooks’ car. What could go wrong?“

Dara is another lively adolescent who uses her size and power to get her way. When she and Annabelle end up fighting a Mech battle against each other, readers will find themselves unable to put the last chapters down, as Erlick weaves a few surprising twists into the story.

“Red and blue uniforms circle around. With every ounce of strength I hit and kick. Anger, not just at Dara, but Surroc, the Union, Voss, Hernandez. Everyone tells me what to do, who to be, how to behave. The union took my parents, grabbed that boy, hunts Morgan. Dara hurt Janine. “

If you like action, suspense, and vivid characters, look no further. In fact, after finishing the book, I asked if there was a sequel to the story.

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