Monday, 26 May 2014

Review, Tour, Giveaway: The Only Boy — Jordan Locke

If you are looking for a dystopian that is more on the pleasant side and geared towards young adults I think this fits the bill pretty well. With its fast pace and range of settings, this book kept me interested throughout.

Read more to read my review, learn about the author and enter a $50 giveaway.

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The only boy
Official Synopsis
Genre: YA; Sci-Fi, Dystopian 
Pages: 269
Mary is stuck in Section One, living with three hundred women in a crumbling hospital. She wonders what life was like two centuries ago, before the Cleansing wiped out all the men. But the rules—the Matriarch's senseless rules—prevent her from exploring the vacant city to find out.
Taylor's got a dangerous secret: he's a boy. His compound's been destroyed, and he's been relocated to Section One. Living under the Matriarch means giving up possessions, eating canned food and avoiding all physical contact. Baggy clothes hide his flat chest and skinny legs, but if anyone discovers what lies beneath, he'll be exiled. Maybe even executed.
Mary's never seen a boy—the Matriarch cut the pictures of men from the textbooks—and she doesn't suspect Taylor's secret. If she knew, she might understand the need to stop the girls from teasing him. If she knew, she might realize why she breaks the rules, just to be near him. Then again, she might be frightened to death of him.
Taylor should go. The Matriarch is watching his every move. But running means leaving Mary—and braving the land beyond the compound's boundaries.

My Review

The cover is gorgeous and does a good job of conveying the premise of the book. The title is a little misleading. Taylor isn’t the ‘only boy’, he is just the only one in his Section and the only one to enter Section One. But it’s punchy and sets up the background for Section One and the history of the dystopian world: there are no boys. It appears as if all male humans have been killed off due to an airborne disease, but that is just its preference, in truth the disease has also affected and killed many women.

In Section One we have a vivid picture of your typical risk taker. In a compound where no touching is allowed (it’s believed to spread the disease) a lot of warm emotions are lacking. We don’t see love – familial or romantic – and even friendships and family ties seems dull and duty bound. On the flip side, that also means there is no physical violence because that counts as touching. The Matriarch of the compound is twisted and cruel. Without a chapter told from her point of view, it is pretty difficult to know exactly why she is this way or why she made (or enforces) such strict and oppressive rules. Taylor, following the bombing of his home, comes from another Section which is run quite differently to Section One. He finds the change difficult, but he doesn’t seem to grief too much over the loss of his home, family and friends.

That leads me to the first issue I had with this book. I appreciate that fast pace. But sometimes it felt as if this book neatly skimmed over everything with a sprinkling of depth here and there for good measure. The big baddie is the Matriarch, but we don’t know enough about her to make a judgement beyond ‘your rules are wrong’ and ‘you have made evil choices. And, [spoiler alert!] towards the end Mary encounters the scientist who created a baby boy (all the children are made in a laboratory) – Taylor. Do we get to know her or her life story? Nope. I wanted to know more about these key characters. Okay, they may not be in much of the book because of their lack of interaction with the key characters, but they play a massive role in regards to why events have happened.

In regards to the main characters – Mary and Taylor – I felt ambivalent. They seem so immature in the decisions they make, but I think you could put that down to their very limited life and social experiences. I wish the characters had a little more depth to them to make them more intriguing, but as an adult reader I realise not every young adult book is going to tick that box for me. Their naivety was also a bit irksome. Why it took so long for them to realise the ‘evil Earthers’ weren’t attacking the compound is beyond me. I think the clue is in the name – Earthers. They hunt and gather. Where are they apparently getting an airplane and a bomb?

The Earthers were a wonderful addition to the plot. It made the world feel more populated and even more female dominated. The female Earthers make the final decision in regards to their lives and despite capturing and treasuring a few surviving menfolk. I think Locke did a great job at contrasting the different ways in which groups of people chose to live their lives after the disease, from the sterile Section One to the back-to-nature Earthers.

The book felt a little rosy. The love between the main characters felt too quick and too superficial. The ending was also seemed pleasing all round for the characters, on the whole. Should I put that down to it being young adult? Good reads estimates young adult to be aimed at those between 13 – 21 years old, and I would say this is probably aimed at those on the lower end. The subject matter of dystopian is often dark and emotionally exhausting, but this book felt on the lighter side of the dystopian spectrum.

Overall this is a pretty enjoyable read. The plot, environments and themes are intriguing. The pacing is steady and you never get the sense of having been in one story location or point too long. For readers who are looking for great depth in characters and plot this book might not be satisfying enough, but if you are looking for a dystopian that is more on the pleasant side and geared towards young adults I think this fits the bill pretty well.

Jordan Locke
The Author

Jordan Locke lives in Connecticut with his wife, two lively daughters and a well-behaved whippet. A graphic designer by trade, his creativity spilled over into the literary world. After years of writing, reading and learning the craft, his fifth novel, The Only Boy, brought him offers of representation from two well-known agents. Now, after the dog is fed and the kids are in bed, you will find him tapping away at the keyboard.

Blog Tour Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 6/8/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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