Friday, May 25, 2012

The Academie: Book Review

Typically, unless offered, I don’t run out and pick up YA books for enjoyment.  I especially don’t pick up anything labeled ‘YA Romance’.  But when I read over the description of Amy Joy’s book, “The Academie”, I couldn’t help myself.  

Allie Thompson is a 19 year old college graduate.  However, due to increased levels of violence tearing through the public school system, the government decides to institute The Academie, a mandatory militaristic facility for all citizens between the ages of 14 and 22.  Taken from her friends, freedom, and newfound love, Allie is placed in a remodeled high school along with all other intakes and forced to submit to the program.  

But the Academie has a much darker secret in store.  The apparent brainwashing of her 16 year old brother and the sudden and mysterious disappearance surrounding a new friend lead Allie to believe that there’s more to the establishment than mortar, stone, and crappy cafeteria food.

Allie Thompson is the quiet girl in class.  I want to say the underdog, but she’s actually quite friendly.  She’s definitely an easy character to like and even to relate to in many ways.  She deals with the heartbreak of being yanked from the university and thrown into a dystopian society as one would expect most teenagers – kicking and screaming.  Once the inevitable sinks in, however, she makes the most of her time outside of the place.

Amy Joy does an excellent job of creating a building as the antagonist.  While certainly intimidating, it holds well to an air of mystery and, as we learn just a short ways into the book, not without a few design flaws.  

Allie Thompson isn’t abused in the Academie.  She comes under no threat of danger outside of her heartache over missing Bryan, the internet boyfriend of her dreams.  That is, until she starts poking around.  The Academie is presented like most forms of government – a good idea in theory, but rarely in practice.  Once flaws become more apparent and things start to fall apart, the tension builds at an exponential rate, leading to a rather late night of uncontrollable page-turning on my part.
-Worth it-

I don’t write romance for one key reason – I think it’s dumb.  That being said, I was very surprised by the breath of fresh air that came from The Acadamie.  Bryan, the internet hacker long-distance relationship/obsession, isn’t some strong-jawed playboy with bad boy appeal and a dark secret.  In all honesty, he’s a computer geek with health-nut parents.  

The interaction between the two is told in flashbacks, as they are separated into different academies.  The break of pacing is well done, allowing the plot to advance between timed instances of memories.
The love affair itself is in no way hot or steamy.  No sex, gratuitous “I’ll show you mine” scenes, just the innocent exhilaration of discovery on an emotional level.

I honestly couldn’t find a better way to describe the romance than ‘wholesome’. (Much like Bryan’s diet)

The secondary characters are interesting.  A LOT of thought went into certain character quirks.  Some of them come into play in the plot later on, others are just interesting, adding another dimension of personality to the people and giving them a greater depth of realism.
The story flows.  Save for one instance where I felt the flashback went on for a couple chapters too long, there’s a definite transition as we watch a whole girl get broken down and slowly piece herself back together.  

The story ends.  There’s no wretched cliff-hanger… no organ grinder slamming out a ‘dun dun DUUUUNNN’ on the final page.  While this may seem like a lousy way to end the first of a series, I’m honestly MORE intrigued for the second because of it.  While some things still linger in the background, you feel fulfilled by the end of the book.  The fact that there’s another coming out only serves to beg the question, “Where is she going to take this?”

This is not the greatest book I’ve ever read.  Probably not even the best I’ve read all year.  But this is an honestly good book that I would feel comfortable recommending to any young audience.  It surpasses a lot of the shallowness with YA female fiction and holds together with a strong plot, strong characters, and deep feeling of satisfaction throughout it.

Still on the fence?  Here’s your opportunity to chime in!  Ms. Joy will be answering interview questions next Friday.  If you have anything you’d like to ask about her work, please chime in with a comment or drop me a line at MattBryantDFW [at] gmail.

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