Jenna Strong has been imprisoned for the murder of her parents. The year is 2113 and the Independent Republic of Britain is ruled by ACID; the Agency for Crime Investigation and Defence. After two years of surviving as the only girl in maximum security prison, Mileway, she has learned how to look after herself but when she is given the chance to escape she must learn to live a different life. A life that is monitored closely by the very people who put her behind bars.
ACID sets the scene in a not too distant future, where Britain was crippled by financial collapse and an incompetent government. ACID took over to save the country, creating a police state with strict rules. Surveillance, ID cards, segregation of the rich and poor, arranged marriage, privatisation of core services and terrorism; this sound like anything you’ve heard in the news lately? Because ACID is an example of dystopian fiction done right. The politics and world that Jenna lives in drives the story and her actions are the vehicle to explore the different aspects of a society that’s not too hard to imagine.
Come back! I want to shout. Then I realize how ridiculous I’m being. I’ve just spent the last two years in prison, for God’s sake. I can take on men four times my size and reduce them to a bloody, blubbering pulp. And now I’m nervous about being left alone with an ordinary seventeen-year-old guy?
So there’s a teeny tiny bit of romance, but importantly, it is not central to the book but something that gives the motivation for certain aspects of the story to happen (which aren’t mushy at all). I liked the subtly of it, although some readers may not find it a strong enough relationship. Instead, Jenna spends time with different life partners, highlighting the lack of choice in her world. You are paired up with someone by ACID and that’s that.
Another thing I loved about ACID; adults! Jenna is not some miracle teenager who manages to bring down civilisation by herself. At each stage in her journey, there are adults around who make things possible and therefore more believable. She is tough and she’d like to think independent but it’s clear that her successes have been helped along.
I take one of the boxes from the nearest shelf, brushing away dust and cobwebs, and realize it isn’t a box at all. It’s a book – a real book, made of board and paper and glue, like the ones my father used to have locked away in a glass cabinet in his study, which were far too old and valuable even to touch, never mind read.
I did start to worry about Jenna’s face by the end of it. I know there have meant to have been great advances in cosmetic surgery but it seemed to happen a bit too often. Whilst I did work out what happened with the murder of her parents early on, I still found the whole thing gripping and there were plenty of other elements to keep me turning the page.
This is YA dystopia finally returning to its Orwellian roots. Huzzah!
ACID is published by Random House and is now available in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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