by Lance Erlick
Annabelle Scott lives under the iron rule of a female-dominated régime that forces males to fight to the death to train the military elite. When pressed into service as a mechanized warrior to capture escaped boys, Annabelle stays true to herself by helping some escape. Her defiance endangers everyone she loves and thrusts her to a place of impossible life and death decisions.
“Fascinating … exciting … took me by surprise … grabbed and held my attention … plenty of action and suspense … great summer read!”
A stimulating, worthwhile story of a dystopian future.
A debut young-adult novel set in a militaristic, sexist society.
Sixteen-year-old Annabelle lives in a world where the government oversees her every move. America has undergone a second civil war, and Annabelle, her adoptive mother and her beloved sister Janine, live in Knoxville, Tenn., a city run by the all-female Tenn-tucky mech forces. The mechs’ mission: to protect their borders, rescue females and capture males. Annabelle is told that the male species is both inferior and a deadly threat. But although she, like everyone else, is expected to faithfully obey militaristic rule at all times, her heart won’t let her do so. When she was 3, her father was killed by the mechs, and her mother was imprisoned for life for attempting to save him. Although Annabelle loves and respects her adoptive mother, a senator who serves as a voice of reason in their community, she can’t respect the society that destroyed her parents. She repeatedly tries to find her biological mother and help the few males that are left, but when she’s caught too many times, she’s forced to join the mechs herself. Her final test is to fight a brute—a male monster—to the death. Readers will easily engage with this well-written tale. Annabelle is believably stubborn, yet also vulnerable and likable. Erlick also paints other characters vividly; for example, Dara, a mech and Annabelle’s nemesis, is so nasty that readers may find their skin crawling whenever she enters a scene. The novel has plenty of action and suspense, made all the more thrilling due to the investment readers have in the characters. The novel’s psychological elements keep things interesting, as well; the fact that Annabelle must join the force that killed her father, and try to remain an individual in a society that praises sameness, certainly has an effect on her. Readers will likely think about this society long after finishing the book.
Windy City Reviews (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.
Review excerpt from Fran Lewis:
Fast paced, action packed and definitely filled with energy and characters that will keep you wondering what is going to happen next as Annabelle leads the way.
What would you do to protect the ones you love? The author raises this question along with many others.
An ending so explosive and surprising you won’t see it coming.