The fact that it was an instant approval on Netgalley should have clued me in. But no, I had to go and read the synopsis and it was all dystopian! and post-apocalyptic! and survivalist! Lord of the Flies meets Brave New World! And they’re making a television show based on it! It has to be at least kinda good, right?
Wrong. Fucking badly-written YA romance. Fucking what. These were some of the worst YA books I’ve read in a loooong time (hint: since Twilight.)
I could stop here, tell you to run far away from this book and its even shittier sequel, but that would take all the fun out of flaying apart all of its faults and problems. This series is lousy with tropes, and reads like a hormonal thirteen-year old psychopath edited it. Strap in kids, this is going to be fun. For convenience’s sake, I’m going to lump the two books together because trust me, it’s better that way. Also, any time you see a hyperlink, I’ve linked to the appropriate TV Tropes page. Generally, it will describe that character perfectly. Now, before we continue, this review is littered with spoilers because I simply don’t care enough to avoid them.
The basic plot runs thusly: after some sort of generic nuclear war-apocalypse event which never gets explained fully – or at all – some humans go up to live on a big spaceship orbiting Earth. Fast forward three hundred years and we lucky readers get to follow four! stupid-beautiful-characterless teenagers living on the spaceship as three of them get sent back to Earth – as part of a group of one hundred juvenile delinquents – to
see if it’s habitable make out with each other. The fourth one remains on the ship to swoon about her ex-boyfriend and look at dresses made of shower curtains.
It’s been a whole two days since I finished the second book (I DID THIS FOR YOU, YOU’RE WELCOME) and I’m not sure I can remember all four of the protagonists’ names. Although I’m not necessarily blaming that on the quality of the book (I am.)
Anyways. First up we have, umm, Glass. Yep. She’s the one who stays on the ship. She has a traumatic past, I think. Ahahaha click that link because it just describes Glass sooo perfectly. Anyways. She was supposed to be sent down to Earth with the other 100 teenagers, who were all criminals of some sort, but then she sneaked off the ship at the last minute so she could go hang out with her ex-boyfriend some more and angst out about him.
But when she tracks him down, he’s moved on with his life! Gasp! (For about five minutes that is, before he dumps Other Girl so that Glass can angst with him instead of just about him.)
“Glass paused. She had spent all her time in Confinement imagining what she would say to Luke if she ever got the chance to see him again.”
For clarification, Confinement is where teenagers who’ve done something bad get sent until they’re eighteen, at which point they get a retrial. But due to reasons, almost everyone who gets retrialed gets sentenced to death. So Glass has basically spent her time on death row thinking about what to say to a boy.
Anyways. Next up, there’s Clarke. She’s another poorly-described girl who was training to be a doctor before being Confined for something her parents did blah blah (they get executed for it.) It’s convenient that she knows so much about medical stuff, because ONE HUNDRED TEENAGERS LAND ON A PLANET WITH ALMOST NO FUCKING KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT THEY’RE DOING OR HOW TO STAY ALIVE. Unfortunately, instead of spending her time saving lives or doing research or passing her knowledge on to someone else, she hates/loves Wells, her ex-boyfriend, and keeps making out in the forest with Bellamy, who is the dark/tortured/bad boy.
Now let’s talk about …Wells. Wells is the biggest dickhead to come along since the guy who invented junk mail. He endangers the lives of everyone on the spaceship in order to come down to Earth with Clarke, the girl whose parents he totally turned in to the vaguely-explained totalitarian regime that rules life on the ship.
Then he spends his time angsting repeatedly about Clarke, who is supposedly the love of his life. Until he forgets her about five days in to their Earth adventure in favor of someone else. SPOILER ALERT: It’s someone from Earth. Because people are still totally living there. Wells also becomes something of a leader of the space-kids, despite the fact that they all dislike him, because his father was the chancellor/dictator back on the ship. This makes him a Mighty Whitey, and I fear it will only get worse after the first two books. This might be sad for Clarke, except that she’s been out canoodling in the forest with Bellamy’s dark and tortured soul, so she doesn’t actually give a shit about Wells any more.
And Bellamy. Bellamy is purportedly trying to protect his little sister who’s been condemned to go to Earth with the Hundred, so he steals a gun, accidently shoots Well’s dad to get onto the Earth shuttle, and pisses everyone off (except Clarke, who can’t stop staring at his “rippling muscles.”) His motivations are possibly the only ones that aren’t entirely cringe-worthy, but this accidental not-shittiness is tempered by the fact that he acts generally like a misogynistic ass. This does at least differentiate him slightly from the other characters. If I remember correctly Bellamy is also conveniently an orphan.
Welp, so there is our cast of characters. And we hear from ALL OF THEM, in turn, throughout both books. It gets old very quickly. Also, did I mention that nothing really happens? I’ve basically described all the events that happen in both books. Did I also mention that with all of the world-building possibilities inherent in this story, Morgan took advantage of none of it? The ship, the Earth, the history of these people…it’s all vague, misty background, mentioned only in passing or not at all. What is mentioned in excruciatingly boring length are the raging emotions all of these teens feel for each other, only to feel them for someone else ten minutes later.
And every chapter ends with some sort of awful cheesy line. Let me dig up a few of my favorites:
End of chapter 6: “It was the first sunset humans had witnessed in three centuries, and he was watching it alone.”
End of chapter 11: “She knew she was doing the right thing, for once. She just wished it didn’t hurt so much.”
End of chapter 13: “Wells didn’t dare move or say another word. The girl he thought he’d lost [Clarke] was still in there, somewhere, and in that instant, he knew: he could make her love him again.”
Gag, gag, spew, ugh. But wait, it gets better!
Chapter 15: “Clarke felt like she was melting into his arms, losing herself in his kiss. [Bellamy] tasted like joy, and joy tasted better on Earth.”
Chapter 16: “‘I love you,’ she whispered, needing desperately to say it. I love you I love you I love you throbbed through her body as Luke smiled and pulled her back to him.”
Please make it stop. I can’t type these out anymore.
Welp. This is 1000+ words I’ve just spent talking about two of the shittiest books I’ve ever read, and if Goodreads is anything to go by, other people greatly enjoy doing the same thing. Some of the reviews for this series are absolutely hilarious and you should check them out here!
And that’s all from me today. I am now out to wash my brain with bleach. Laters, haters.