Thursday, 13 June 2013
Book: Tent City by Kelly Van Hull
Dani lives in the USA, except after a plague of locusts there isn't enough food for people to eat, and some people have enhanced personality attributes. When the country's dictator, General Burke, passes a law saying that all children between the ages of 5 and 18 had to be relocated to 'safety camps', Dani's parents tell her to run, with her 5 year old brother Brody, and best friend Kit, in tow. When the trio finally reach their destination, after being helped by the mysterious Jack, they find a settlement of teenagers led by the equally mysterious Bentley. Here Kit finds love and Dani starts to find herself.
First things first, I think that this book has serious sequel potential (and I'll be reading any sequels without a doubt!), the ending was set up perfectly for it, but even if it hadn't been, the genre lends itself to being written about more than once.
I found that Van Hull's dystopian setting was well thought out, if a little rough around the edges. However, I thought this roughness worked as it was made clear that this was a dystopia in it's early stages, at one point I think Dani dates it as 7 years ago at the coming of the locusts. Up until nearing the end of the book I'd actually seen General Burke as a kind of Big Brother figure, heard but not seen, though I have now revised that opinion.
I thought that it was interesting how Van Hull integrated religion into her book, with the plagues (based on the plagues of Egypt I believe), and hints towards a surge in people believing in religion and in God. Not many dystopias ever really focus on religion, in most the religion is the State, so this was a refreshing change for it. I was a little surprised that Dani and her brother (along with the other Tent City occupants) escaped from the oppressive society so early on, though then again this worked because of the plot line for fighting against the oppression.
Character wise I found it really easy to relate to Dani, and particularly her caring for her younger brother (I have a 4 year old brother myself, and I know that even with my parents around I would do anything to protect him), and I found her growth pattern to be believable, it was gradual, and even the developing love triangle was believable. I liked the way that Dani wasn't going around kissing both of them all the time, or leading them both on, they both knew what was happening fully. Both the relationships (between Dani and Jack, and Dani and Bentley) were believable in the way they progressed, though personally I preferred the dynamic between Dani and Bentley, to me it just seemed so real because of how Dani was saying he was sweet one moment and then getting frustrated and annoyed at him the next, to me Jack simply seemed a bit aloof.
Unfortunately I did struggle with the character of Kit a bit, she wasn't a bad character or a bad person or anything, she just didn't seem to change. I think the only thing that Dani mentioned changing about her was that she stayed with the same guy for over a week. I just find it slightly difficult to believe that someone who went from living on a farm near a fairly big town, to living in a tent, changed so little.
One thing I noticed about the edition I was given was that the text seemed to randomly grow in size for a sentence and then go back to normal. Obviously this wasn't a problem or anything, and it didn't detract from the writing, it is just an edition quirk.
I always think that half the fun I have with this kind of book is to guess what the twists are, and once again I'm proud to say I guessed both of them right (though at one point I was worried that one of them wasn't going to be revealed!). As I said, I think this adds to the fun and the thrill of reading, for me anyway, and didn't detract from the story.
This is yet another dystopian novel that I will wholeheartedly recommend, and another one that doesn't have the following or the recognition that it deserves!