Friday, 20 September 2013

Review: The Cleansing

Book Summary

After the earth suffered from a series of severe natural disasters that claimed many lives, people are still fearful years later. America allows in foreigners from other devastated areas to assist with rebuilding. As a result, a new wave of immigration occurs, and now Americans are in the minority. They are discriminated against and blamed for global warming.
 When a foreigner becomes president of the United States, he devises a plan that will prevent Americans from standing in the way of his tyranny. He forces them to attend the Earth Education Program, where they are supposed to learn how to take better care of the environment.

The story follows John and Annie Weber, an American couple, who discover that the program is more malignant than it appears. As a massive genocide takes place, John and Annie struggle to survive in this new world.

Star Rating
5 / 5
I really enjoyed this book. It's depth surprised me. The character development in this book is superb and by the end of the novel you really feel connected to the characters. What makes this book even more amazing is how the plot is handled. It's pacing, subplot interjections, flashbacks, and plot twists kept me hooked. In a distant future I suppose the events in this book could become a possible reality. I think that the potential possibilities is what makes certain dystopian novels truly chilling. This is a great dystopian novel, and I think anyone who likes thrillers or drama would appreciate this book.


Throughout the book we see racism directed at Americans through laws. Having studied the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s I can see some similarities and, in the beginning, it was interesting to see things turned around on Americans. It wasn't long until their treatment stopped being an interesting 'how would you like it' and turned into something that registered as just wrong to me as a reader. The main characters in this novel, John and Annie, are a somewhat average couple. I think this makes it a lot easier to relate to the feelings of the characters. They aren't action heroes, they aren't the strongest or most intelligent, they aren't anything particularly special. They survive the story by their own skills, personal strengths, love and luck. But, as in all true dystopian novels, they are doomed to fail. We follow these two characters, share in their heartbreak and joys. We feel everything they do. In fact, towards the end of the book, I was close to tears (and I don't often cry over books!). I was happy to see that, at the end of the book, a sequel is planned. While I do hate cliché or unearned happy endings, I would like to think that the fictional world of this book can right the wrongs of Julian. So obviously I will be reading the rest of the series!

The book is sometimes interrupted by subplots of other characters. At first I thought it was strange, then I began to like it. The other perspectives helped give a bigger view of what was happening in the world and how other people were living or suffering. I found the chapter dedicated to John's parents to be very chilling and, for that reason, enjoyable because I didn't see it coming. I thought there would be some side note as to what happened to them, or that they would be left as deaths that happened off screen, presumably at the Earth Program. Laura and Stephanie's subplot was also interesting because their story gave the book its final, horrific chapter. Evans shows that she isn't limited to following just the 'main' characters in a book, and that she can weave a bigger picture using minor characters to spice up the novel.

This book was definitely easy to read, the length was perfect and I enjoyed the pace. For me, Evans ticked all the right boxes. Despite Annie's inability to bear children and her irritability (and bitterness) towards her family and friends who had children, Annie never came off as a character who was petty or annoying because of that aspect of her character. To me, her feelings and thoughts were justified, and so I liked her very much as a character. Furthermore, I felt John had a vulnerability about him which made him believable because he wasn't Mr Action Man.
While it isn't a negative point, I did foresee Annie getting pregnant, or at least a pregnancy scare, in the book because of the mention of nausea. Perhaps my mind was just making huge assumptions because of one word. However, there was a lot I didn't foresee. In this book I felt there were quite a few twists in the story. For example, when Annie and John are sent for 're-education' I thought the worse that would happen would be rigged exams to keep Americans locked up permanently. I ended up thinking the characters were just being a bit paranoid, but when the soldiers began to shoot at the Americans I realised how Evans had created a place where Americans were lulled into a false sense of security - and I too had been taken in by it! Moreover, I certainly didn't see one of the good guys mercilessly taking the life of a spy. As a reader I know it's what should always happen, but good characters do tend to refrain from outright murder, or there's more emotional anguish written. And, of course, the last note I made on this book was 'omg'. I definitely didn't think the ending would happen in such a way. I hope I haven't given too much away about this book, but it's rather difficult to explain how much of a pleasure it was to read without nodding to all the twists and turns in the book.


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