Khanh the Killjoy


PODs - Michelle Pickett Yet another YA sci-fi dystopian that fails to deliver on all fronts. The writing is juvenile, the characters are annoying and lacking depth, and I found one character to be particularly offensive, poorly written, and dare I say, racist? I will go into details later.And look at the cover! LOOK AT THE COVER! Who the fuck emerges from an emergency shelter with PERFECTLY COIFFED AND SAUSAGE-CURLED HAIR LIKE THAT?!Ok, back to seriousness. First off, the premise of a good dystopian novel are realistic situations, a believable plot, and characters that act in a prudent, sensible manner. By realistic, I do not mean that we, the reader, should believe that the world is actually going to implode any minute now due to a comet/disease/nuclear warfare suddenly. I mean that the situation should be believably paced and plotted and written, as it unfolds within the book. Plausibility is an important factor, so that the reader believes what we are reading, even if the plot reaches beyond the boundaries of the imagination. This is not so in this book. I found the premise, the action, and the world building to be very much lacking in credibility. I also had tremendous dislike for the main character, Eva, as well.The premise of the book is that there is a deadly virus spreading across the world, and a small number of people have been "randomly" selected for quarantine in a government-implemented POD system, where they will be isolated from the public and thus have a much greater probability of living. Seventeen year old Eva has been selected to join the rarefied few, and this is her story as she survives over a year in the PODS, then is reintroduced to the outside world, where even more disaster has struck.Eva, to me, is a tremendously annoying character. The book is told from a first-person point of view, interspersed with Eva's incredibly bitchy internal monologue. For example, her thoughts on the overworked, tired, harangued nurse handling her care: "With medical personnel like her there’s no wonder we don’t have a cure for the virus. Cute.Many readers have a problem with first-person POVs, I do not. However, the key to a tolerable first-person perspective is that the narrator is likeable, or becomes likeable as we come to know them. Eva is lacking in the likeability factor. She is supposedly super-intelligent, yet I feel she lacks enough common sense, rationality, and I find myself questioning her mental capacity...I truly believe that the government messed up in their selection. Her actions are not credible, her thoughts are all over the place, her personality contradicts itself, and it feels like the author bends her character to suit the plot, rather than making the character react accordingly to the plot itself. She freaks out as she leaves her parents for the safety of the PODs, but afterwards, she cries a little when she is released and really, gives them no more thought. And so on, and so forth.The other characters are, in contrast, utterly forgettable. I still can't tell you who's who in the PODs, and I have no idea why she fell for David as she did, nor he for her. The rest of the characters in the PODs were similarly clichéd. High school teenage stereotypes? All present and accounted for!"A boy with several facial piercings and tattoos; his blond hair was cut close to his head in a military style.""...the stubble-faced, heavy-set boy sitting across from her looked up...he gave a disgusted sigh and returned to his computer."...and so on, and so forth.And here is where I get to the character whom I felt was portrayed in a racially ignorant manner. Jai Li. Jai Li? Seriously? It's like Cho Chang. There is no Chinese name equivalent for Jai Li. She is supposed to be intelligent, since she is selected to be in the group, after all. Yet, she speaks no English, despite having lived in the US, despite having a freaking Social Security number. I live in a community with a lot of Asian immigrants, even the most newly arrived know the most basic of words, but apparently, not our Jai Li. She is supposed to have been educated at a special Mandarin-speaking school and speaks Mandarin at home, which is supposed to explain her lack of English. That I can understand, but it doesn't explain her complete ignorance of the most basic of the English language. Here are some pretty idiotic examples of how she is stereotyped:"She pointed at the milk carton sitting on the table.'Milk,' I said slowly.'Milk,' Jai Li repeated.'Water.' I pointed to the glass in David’s hand as he walked by."Seriously? Fucking seriously? Milk? Water? This intelligent girl grows up in California and doesn't know the words milk and water? How do you expect us to believe that?And..."'Kiss,' she said in her heavy accent."Yes, Jai Li, 'kiss,'" I whispered. My breathing was heavy and I felt my heart beating a staccato against my ribs.'Love.' She grinned."I don't even know what to say right now without launching into a raging rant on immigrant stereotypes, so I'll leave it at that.Enough of characters, let's get to the actual world. It's set in today's world initially, but there is a panic as outbreak sets in. Incredibly, her parents try to hide the news story from her, and Eva doesn't know what's happening until she hears about it at school. Because, of course, in this day and age, kids always listen to their parents and they wouldn't attempt to get the news from the internet, their friends, their smartphones, or the millions of sources of news these days, especially when a deadly virus outbreak is spreading all over the damn world. And she's easily distracted by her parents' ploy at getting her away from the TV news by "family game night" and pizza. At seventeen. Yep.After the outbreak breaks out, the world runs short on supplies, the stores run out of groceries, and as Eva gets picked to be in the POD, her mom takes her out on a shopping spree! Whee! They buy a super-expensive-but-cute hoodie and everything so she'd look, like, TOTALLY HOT in the PODs. Oh, and they order pizza...when the store shelves are empty of food, as people hoard supplies, as the world riots. Yeah, Pizza Hut will totally be up and running as the world ends. Such comforting news.The post-apocalyptic world is not well-described at all. I didn't get a sense of urgency, of panic, of chaos. It's just the survivors setting themselves up in a cozy, safe little commune, and I didn't get a sense of anger, or displacement, or hopelessness, or danger. It's just business as usual. There's just no world-building at all, and I'm extremely disappointed in what we weren't given.In summary, this was a thoroughly disappointing, badly characterized book with gaping plot holes. Not recommended.