Time is slipping away….
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can’t determine what’s wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She’s lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she’s helpless to change anything.
Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It’s an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother’s illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there’s no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.
The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can’t trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?
Victoria Scott’s breathtaking novel grabs readers by the throat and doesn’t let go.
LONG, BORING, WHINY RANT AHEAD. REVIEWER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WOUNDS SUSTAINED DUE TO SUDDEN ONSET OF NARCOLEPSY.
*review contains minor spoilers*
Tella receives a cryptic message telling her that she’s been entered into a race that could save her sick brother’s life. The message could very well be from a serial killer but she buys it hook, line, and sinker. She doesn’t tell her family what she’s doing and drives off in search of the first clue in the middle of the night, without so much as leaving them a note.
Luckily, the race is a real thing. And from the second it begins she demonstrates that she shouldn’t be taking part in it. Luckily again, the contestants all get a guardian during the competition. They’re mutant animals with special abilities that hatch out of eggs and are called Pandoras. I’m of the mind that the sole purpose of their inclusion in this story was because without them, the MC would have died within a day or two.
Ways in which this is similar to The Hunger Games:
– The MC joins an event to save her sibling.
– The event is basically revenge for past grievances.
– A train takes her to the starting point.
– A woman in loud, colorful clothing, who is associated with the “authority”, is there to assist her.
– MC wears a pin.
– She wears the clothing that they provide her.
– She has a helper (the Pandora) that’s her sole point of aid during the race.
– She’s dropped into the middle of nowhere with other competitors.
– Deaths of the competitors are announced to the survivors.
– They have to fight their way to the finish line.
Ways in which this is dissimilar to The Hunger Games:
– The MC is the opposite of a survivor. She’s a dier. At least she would be if there was any sort of justice in this book.
– The people involved in the event don’t have to kill each other.
– They’re not being spied on or sabotaged 24/7.
– This is a pretty quick read.
– The MC’s self-deprecating sense of humor actually made me laugh out loud at some points.
– Her Pandora was adorable.
WORLD BUILDING. There is none. You have no idea when the book begins how advanced civilization is. You have no idea when the book ends how advanced civilization is. Does this take place today? 300 years in the future? Sorry, can’t answer that for you.
When you realize that humans are capable of creating mutant creatures that spawn out of eggs and possess all sorts of special abilities, like healing poison, breathing fire and sprouting needles all over their body, you lean towards “future”, right? Yeah, so did I. But other than some vague medical stuff there are NO other advances listed. Anywhere.
Also, everyone in the race is competing for medicine that will cure any illness. But besides that, what’s the point? The public doesn’t even know about the race. Why was it created? When? Who’s running it? How are they paying for it all? How do they know the things they do about what’s happening when there’s no mention of surveillance? How do they know when people die? WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT OF ALL THESE PEOPLE DYING? AND WHY DOESN’T THE MC QUESTION ANY OF THIS?
The few explanations you’re given, will probably piss you off and leave you with more questions than answers.
The MC. Fak. I don’t even know where to begin with her. Imagine the ONE person that has no business being in a survival situation and you’ll wind up with Tella. Vanity is her hubris. She thinks about how ugly she must look with mud on her face more than she does about the fact that she’s there to save her brother’s life.
The biggest way that this book differs from The Hunger Games is that Tella is the complete opposite of Katniss in every way imaginable. She has zero survival skills. None. But that’s okay because she has her Pandora, Madox.
She desperately wants to be around other people. Not only because it’ll increase her chances of survival but because she’s ronery. She also desperately wants to be accepted. And she hates other girls on sight if they’re prettier than her. Have I mentioned how much I loathe this theme? I LOATHE THIS THEME.
Speaking of appearances, she’s obsessed with them, namely her own. She’s fighting for her very survival but damn it, she wishes she were prettier while doing it! I quickly got fed up with how focused she was on her looks. Who the fuck cares? Your brother is DYING, how bout you focus on the task at hand?
She’s also different than Katniss in that she has zero fucking direction and no assertiveness. When she goes to pick her Pandora egg, she hesitates. She’s standing in the room, all alone, with eggs surrounding her, but instead of choosing one and moving the fuck on, she stares at the pretty colors for a while. Then a swarm of other competitors rush in and start snatching eggs and dashing off to get to the next location. Which is what anyone that belongs in this competition would do. Tella hesitates some more and all the eggs are gone. She cries.
The Love Interest. Oh but wait, who’s that super-hot dude in the doorway? I’ll tell you who he is. He’s, Guy, her fucking white knight. The dude is the ultimate competitor. If anyone should win the race, it’s him. But for whatever reason, instead of moving on to the next clue, he’d rather help out Tella by letting her know there’s another egg in the room that no one but him noticed.
And that pretty much makes up the rest of the story. Tella proves how worthless she is at this competition and Guy saves her. I have no idea what he sees in her. Oh and in case you think that his badassery might make this book worth a read, think again. He’s nothing but an archetype. And his specialty is being the ragebeast. If anything threatens his little lady, he rides in on his steed and declares
He’s from Detroit, by the way. Yet when they’re dropped into their first zone, a jungle in Africa, he somehow knows every single fucking thing about it. He knows which fruits are safe to eat, which plants cure poison, which plants ARE poisonous, which plants slow bleeding, etc, etc, etc. HOW DOES HE KNOW THESE THINGS?! WHY DOESN’T TELLA QUESTION HOW HE KNOWS THESE THINGS?! Like many things in this book, it’s not explained.
The Side Characters. They have very little depth. The bad guy is bad. He wants to rape everything with tits and torture everything smaller than he is. Yet for whatever fucking reason, Tella and her rag-tag crew of companions keep him around for a while. Katniss would have slit his throat in his sleep. He’s a serial killer in the making. The way that they first meet him is utterly ridiculous. He has his Pandora try to kill them all and then lies about it. They don’t question him though. They don’t question him about anything. And he and Tella’s interactions lead me to the next and probably the most controversial section of this review…
The Perpetuation of Rape Culture. Yes, I said it. This book is fucking full of it. Tella demonstrates over and over again the perfect way to be a victim. Let’s have a look at a study by the University of California on this subject. They list a set of societal rules that contribute to it:
1. When spoken to, a woman must acknowledge the other person with a gracious smile.
2. Women must answer questions asked of them.
3. Women must not bother other people or make a scene because they are uncomfortable.
4. When in trouble, it is best to defer to the protection and judgment of men.
5. Casual touching or suggestive comments in social settings are meant as a tribute to a woman’s desirability.
6. It is the natural state of affairs for men to carry the financial burden of social situations.
7. When engaged in a social encounter, it is not proper for a woman to superior in any game, sport or discussion if she wants to be accepted.
8. Women should always accept and trust the kindness of strangers if they offer help.
This is Tella. She exemplifies every fucking number on this list. Okay, maybe not six, but I bet if they got out of the race she would. She answers every question directed at her, she doesn’t make a fuss after Titus, the bad guy, sexually assaults her because she “has no idea what to do” (THIS HAPPENS MORE THAN THREE TIMES, BTW), she continuously defers to the judgment of men, sucks at the race and immediately accepts the help of strangers. Even fucking Titus.
This chick doesn’t stand up for herself, she’s not assertive because she doesn’t want to seem “mean”, and from the onset of the race, is completely dependent on a man for her survival.
I have no tolerance for this. If you’re going to include a strong theme like sexual assault in a young adult book, handle it with some fucking depth. Make a fucking point. Your readership is predominantly teenage girls who have been raised on Disney princesses and the constant bombardment of media messages that already perpetuate rape culture.
MAKE A FUCKING STAND.
Have your MC break the mold. Have her flip the fuck out on the guy. Have her be very vocal about how NOT OKAY what he just did to her was. Have the other characters back her up. DO NOT PERPETUATE VICTIM SILENCING, SHAMING, AND BLAMING.
Okay, I’ll move on from here because I’m getting ragey and the urge to go on about this for a thousand or so words is becoming really strong.
The Race. After Tella gets her Pandora egg she has an hour to get from that location to the next one. She has no idea where that is by the way, as she’s in a strange city. So she races off immediately, right? WRONG. She sits in her car for a little while and laments about her looks, cries a bit and chops off her hair because she hates it. Oh by the way, if you have short hair, you’re ugly according to this MC. Lastly, she thinks about her family for a while. Way to NOT focus on what you’re there for.
The Jungle. The whole premise of this portion is that you follow the blue flags from the finish line to base camp. You have two weeks to do it. Guy finds the first flag, OF COURSE, and then he and Tella run into each other, OF COURSE, and then she follows him when he won’t help her. Gee, how ‘hawt’. Don’t you just want to eat him up with a spoon?
Oh, he then leaves her to fend for herself. But don’t worry, she immediately runs into other people that will take care of her instead. They find the second flag together five days after the race starts. Then they run into Guy again, OF COURSE, and he tells them that he thinks the first flag, the one he found, was two miles away from the second.
You’re telling me that after five days of trudging through the jungle they only manage to make it just over two fucking miles? LOOOOOOL! And let’s not forget that somehow there’s no bacteria in the streams that they drink from or that no one’s wounds get infected. I can’t. I just…can’t.
Somehow they figure out the trick with the flags even though they found the first two through sheer dumb luck. Oh and did I mention that there are hundreds of competitors? Yet OF COURSE it’s our group of speshuls that find the flags and figure the race out. And OF COURSE out of hundreds of people Tella and Guy repeatedly run into each other. FML.
The Desert. OF COURSE they make it through the first challenge. When they reach the second, Tella prays that the survival pack she receives comes with Chanel makeup. Aaaand that’s where I started skimming.
Once again, Guy is an expert at survival in the environment that they’ve been placed in, Tella continues to be a vacuous waste of space, more stupid interactions with Titus happen and some other shit. Sorry, I’m plum out of “care”. Oh there’s a twist in there involving the youngest member of their “crew” that’s supposed to be dramatic but was more ridiculous than anything else. And of course some stuff happens to the MC directly after this and Guy saves her some more. Yawn.
The Romance. Is terrible. It’s also the primary focus of this entire book.
The Climax. Is dragged out.
The Ending. You finally get some answers.
The Point. I don’t get it.
The Recommendation. I would only recommend this book to people that haven’t read The Hunger Games, know nothing about survival, don’t mind weak MCs, ragebeast love interests and shallow support characters, and who aren’t critical readers.