Friday, December 20, 2013

The Woodlands by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

The Woodlands, by Lauren Nicolle Taylor, is a YA dystopian novel that I happened on just by chance and really enjoyed, though the ending demands the sequel:  The Wall.  See the author interview for a story description and more information.

First, my grammatical issue: The novel contains many sentence fragments with only the "–ing" form of the verb, as if the clause should have been attached to the previous sentence.  Example:  "I burst into the Class on the first day.  Bleary-eyed, wiping my nose with my sleeve, smearing snot across my face."  Fragments can be powerful and punchy, but these just aren't.  They leave the reader waiting for the rest of the sentence.  It gets distracting after a while.

There are also several points which the author beats into us, over and over.  They would have been stronger if they'd been more subtle.

Otherwise, the writing is very good and draws the reader into the story and the characters. The plot is creepy and exciting and feels fresh for a dystopian novel.  Joseph, the love interest, is a little too perfect, but he's what we all want, so it's fun to read.  The other characters are interesting and distinctive.  I like Rosa's inner struggles and her defiance, which is much of the time so realistically undirected.  The setting and the world building are also good.

What I LOVE about The Woodlands is the way the society in this book has taken something good like racial tolerance and intermixing, and turned it disturbingly on its head.  The leaders encourage people not to see "own kind" but "all kind."  Sounds good, right?  They manipulate things to get as much interracial marriage as possible.  But this has turned into the same thing they were supposedly trying to avoid.  Cultural uniqueness is squashed.  Pure races are seen as inferior.  There's still racial prejudice and oppression, just aimed differently than it used to be.  Very, very profound.

The Woodlands is a good read, and thought-provoking.  I recommend it.


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