Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy KalicickiWhooof! Was that an emotionally charged rollercoaster. There are your key formulaic concepts of isolating a group of people for some utilitarian purpose of control. There is a power-hungry lunatic ruling the country in militaristic fashion. There are hints that this all is our very near future if we don't open our eyes and fix our disturbing ways. But (and I really stress that), Abi and Missy managed to add a new layer to the formula that makes Branded have an impact. They make their book disgusting, disturbing, and eye-watering. It is all very real and painful. Refreshing in a pile of happy-go-lucky-ever-after dystopias. (Doesn't that seem like some kind of oxymoron?)
Lexi is awkward and clutz-y. She is not a smooth operator and very clearly emotionally broken, though she is trying to deal with that issue. Another refreshing aspect in this genre of glamorous femme fatales. Lexi has the key ingredient to being a strong teenage female: she wants to be better without the confidence. She is a very real person who struggles with her potential but never really becomes any kind of prodigy. I appreciate this writing.
It is pretty obvious from the beginning she is going to fall in love with the one person she shouldn't, you know, because it is forbidden--execution style. However, it has the genuine feel of falling in love for the first time when it all seems completely illogical and sometimes makes you want to puke from emotional overload.
These are bedtime stories to help children have faith in humanity and make a better future. I loved The Giver as a child and developed a soft spot for the dystopian genre. Then, I lost some faith with the Hollywood rush to make it big without the creativity. I'm happy to have gotten some back with Branded. It will be interesting to see where the next story goes, and I cross my fingers these two new authors haven't run out of steam.
I definitely recommend this book, but I would advise an 18-or-over readership. Have a box of tissues nearby and keep the lights on. Happy reading!
Visit Abi and Missy's website to follow the Sinners series.