Wanted by Tim Arnot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Action, straight out of the gate, makes for a nearly perfect beginning to a YA adventure. So it's always a thrill to pick up a story with plenty of action right from page one. And it just gets better from there when the action continues. All the way to the end. So for me, the action was what really made this book a good read.
Wanted is the first book in a series that takes place in a not too distant future (23rd century) where technology and society as we know it have collapsed. People are living simply, in a village like atmosphere where scavenging for relics like radios and other pieces of scientific equipment is outlawed. Trading a few long lost trinkets is fine, but keeping anything potentially useful... not so fine. Fear and oppression (as required by most YA post apocalyptic settings) is provided by the head village thug, known as the Mayor, and his band of minion thugs (I think they're pretty much just known as minion thugs). There is however, a nicely added second layer of oppression provided by the well organized and darkly clad group of thugs known as the Kingsmen. The Kingsmen are the ones responsible for enforcing the simplistic lifestyle, 'disappearing' the subversive folks and accumulating the technologically useful items for themselves. Somewhere in between these evil oppressive forces, the down trodden villagers and our resourceful protagonist Flick, a tense and action filled adventure is spawned.
For a first-in-the-series YA adventure, I thought Wanted was pretty good. And if I could just rate it on the action, I would give it five stars. In fact, for most of the book, I would give it five stars. There were however a few things that held me back from completely enjoying the story. Weird, I know. Usually really good action sequences can make me forget all those things that bug me in a story. But not this time. There were these few plot bits that just didn't work for me. They either didn't seem to have much of a point (and interrupted the flow), or they didn't really go anywhere and just kind of hung around unresolved. For some reason they bugged me - a lot - enough that I couldn't really forget them, or sweep them under the review.
The first weird plot thing was this Joe-snake dream. For me anyway, it just popped up all of a sudden, out of nowhere, didn't really have that much relevance and interrupted the flow. It really bugged me - not because of what it was but because of how it was placed in the story. It was like it was going to be something important, but then it wasn't. Maybe it's just me, but I don't really think so. There were a few other moments like that one, where the writing just kind of threw something at me that felt jarring but then was left kind of unresolved. The REALLY big one that got to me though was a sudden termination of one of the characters. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, so I'll eschew the details, but this was a big one for me. It was just so sudden - and yes, jarring. And yes that can work sometimes... but in this case, I was just left feeling kind of ripped off. The character's exit was just something that happened. And then it was over. And not really written much about after. I felt like the author really should have made this character's exit bigger. I felt like - as a reader - I should have been either lost in a sea of confusion and mystery surrounding the exit, or reduced to a blubbering pool or tears. It just seemed like there was about a chapter worth of writing missing. I know it was close to the end and all, but still.
I realize there is going to be a second book in the series; a book in which these issues I have may all be resolved and I'll just look like a giant schmuck for pointing out these things in the first place. I'm not trying to be overly critical - it's still a four star read. And as for action and a story that keeps moving - this is a good one. It's worth the read and the cover price. (I also hope that my pointing out the death of an un-named character, somewhere near the end, doesn't really qualify as a spoiler. After all, just think about how many books you could pick up and say, "Hey. Somebody dies in this. Near the end." I mean, there are loads of books like that, right?)
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