Thursday, 12 September 2013

Review: Life First

Book Summary (from Amazon)

 Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

 In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world's population, life is valued above all else. The government of "Life First" requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told.

 Determined not to give up her kidney, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.

*** I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review. ***

Life First by RJ Crayton gets off to a pretty good start. I know a lot of readers use the first chapter to gauge whether they want to continue with a book or not and Crayton's chapter certainly doesn't let it down. It ends on a cliff hanger to compel readers to continue with the book, and establishes the main character, as well as important factors that influence Kelsey and her later decisions (such as her upcoming surgery and her father). Crayton doesn't take too long to give the reader a little more insight as to what's going to happen in regards to Kelsey's apparent fate. I felt Life First had good pacing from the start and it certainly kept me reading. I appreciated the well sized chapters which allowed me to stop at natural breaks in the book.

Crayton has a habit of holding back certain details to leave the reader wondering why. Kelsey's father, for example, is first described as being somewhat impersonal and out of touch with his daughter. When Crayton reveals he is a politician it all seems to make sense. This technique is used throughout the book and is part of the reason I originally disliked Kelsey. Early on in the book I found myself disliking Kelsey as I perceived her as exaggerating events and even, at times, being unduly selfish. As more was revealed I was able to sympathise more with Kelsey.

However, I still found the character of Kelsey to be annoying at times. She feels she is in a 'do or die' situation in regards to the surgery, despite her father telling her the chance of misfortune is only 5%. Later on, when we learn the fate of Kelsey's mother and best friend, it seems a bit more understandable that Kelsey would be very wary of what could go wrong.  At times Kelsey seems to be rather innocence, and believes that speaking her mind is for the best and (as a result of this) gets herself deeper in trouble. In fact, whenever she acts independently she seems to do things wrong. My ultimate grievance with her is that she lived in a society whose core values were ones she didn't share. Rather than leave society, as she was seemingly free to do before she was marked for surgery, she choose to stay until called upon to do her 'civic duty'.

I was intrigued as to how in a society obsessed with Life First (and with technology such as Life Monitoring Systems) there was no mention of organs being grown in a laboratory as an alternative to human donation. Manufacturing body parts would seem to hold no risk for any human donor, whereas the system of donor's carries a risk of damaging complications. Nevertheless, the idea of Life First is an interesting change to other social movements found in dystopian media.

Unlike many books, Crayton uses the first person present tense and I feel that this works. Given all the problems that arise in Kelsey's life it always seems like the next problem could lead to the end of Kelsey.  The uncertainly of Kelsey's ultimate fate left me feeling as though she was going to die and the odds certainly did seem stacked against her. I think this made the book more thrilling because of her mortality.

Front Cover

The front cover could use a little something to make it really stand out as it seems a little bland and forgettable. Maybe a propaganda Life First poster?

Overall Rating

 3.5 / 5 

A well paced dramatic sci-fi which raises questions of social duty and morality. While I personally didn't like Kelsey much, most of the characters are admirable as they overcame obstacles they faced as a result of society. The use of present tense adds an exciting element of uncertainty to this book. This works well as a stand alone novel for young readers, but I feel as though it could have been made into a much darker, more elaborate adult novel which could have really explored the dark side of Life First and the world beyond Kelsey's limited life and environment. This is one possible direction Crayton might take in the sequel - we'll have to wait and see!


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