Get a grip, Jenna, I tell myself furiously. People’s lives depend on you tomorrow, and all you can think about is snogging Max.
As a child, I read almost the entire Baby Sitter's Club books. Almost 20 years later, I am rather bemused and amused to realize that I've essentially just read another story about babysitting. Sure, the premise is different, there's a dystopian future (and by dystopian, I mean the let's-throw-random-dystopian-element-crap-at-a-wall-and-see-what-sticks), but really, this is a story about a "tough" teenage girl who acts, more or less, as a babysitter to a delicate, fainting, stammering, blushing little boy.
‘Shut up,’ he says. ‘I hate you. I HATE YOU!’
Who throws one hell of a tantrum.
You might have noticed I used quotation marks for the word "tough." That's because this girl is a bad-ass, someone who is seriously kick ass. Only she shows no evidence of it in the book. Listen, I don't give a flying fuck if you proclaim yourself to be the biggest, baddest bitch in the whole wide fucking dystopian universe if you don't prove yourself. If you constantly quake in your fucking boots, if you constantly faint, if you're constantly fucking saved by the act of deus ex fucking machina, you ain't shit to me, ok?
If you read nothing else of my review, this is what I want you to know about this book. It is a long fucking book with a long fucking nonsensical plot.
1. The dystopian world is generic dystopian bullshit
2. There is a self-proclaimed tough girl who does nothing to prove it. She takes on three identities in this book. She is Jenna, then "Mia," then "Jessica"
3. There is a horrifying amount of deus ex machina, as in "OH MY GOD WE'RE GOING TO DIE IN 2 SECONDS. Oh wait, we're suddenly saved for some fucking reason!11!! Thank you God, Allah, Oprah, and that one Jewish dude!" kind of crap
4. There's a boy who does absolutely fucking nothing for the plot but look cute
5. There is no relationship building whatsoever
Part I: Jenna Strong
‘What’re you in here for, anyway?’ he mumbles thickly.
‘I killed my parents.’
And she never shows a single moment of remorse.
It is the year 2113 in England, now known as the IRB, or the Independent Republic of Britain. ACID is the police force that reigns supreme. Two years ago, Jenna Strong was a pampered, spoiled girl living in the Upper part of London, the wealthiest parts. She was to be LifePartnered (married) soon, at age 16. She had everything going for her. Until she killed her parents.
Two years later, Jenna is 16, and sentenced to a maximum security prison for their murder. No longer a spoiled, soft girl, Jenna is now pure steel. She has shaved her head, her body is tight with muscles, and she is one bad bitch. Jenna thinks she's going to rot in prison until a riot breaks out, and her friend, Dr. Fisher died saving her. For such a big, bad-ass girl, Jenna faints.
My head lolls to the side and darkness rolls over my vision like a wave.
Part II: Mia Richardson:
The face that stares back at me has brown eyes instead of grey. The nose is smaller, the chin rounder. The cheekbones are more pronounced. And all my scars are gone.
I’m almost pretty, for God’s sake.
Well, isn't that just lovely? Jenna is now rescued from prison, AND given an insta-makeover courtesy of plastic surgery within ONE day. She's even got her gorgeous hair back! In ONE day. Only now Jenna isn't Jenna anymore. She's involved in some kind of Super Secret Plan by the people who rescued her, and they won't tell her what.
The only problem is that Jenna Strong is now wanted by ACID for the murder of Dr. Fisher, the person who helped her escape from prison. Falsely implicated for his death, and still wanted for the murder of her parents, Jenna now has to claim a new face, a new identity. Jenna must now become "Mia".
And her life sucks. And her new pretend LifePartner sucks. Until she sees Max Fisher in the news. Max is the son of the late Dr. Fisher, and he, along with everyone, thinks Jenna murdered his dad. But "Mia" can't help but fantasize about him anyway when she sees his picture in the news despite knowing nothing about him.
He’s not handsome, exactly, but he looks friendly and normal and nice; the sort of guy, if you were lucky enough to get Partnered to him, you could imagine curling up with and talking to until the small hours of the morning, and not even noticing what time it was.
D'aww, isn't that just fucking cute. Until ever-so-conveniently, Max runs into her, tries to rob her in the world's most pitiful robbery attempt.
‘I – just – needed – some – stuff,’ he chokes.
And promptly faints.
As he lurches towards me his eyes roll back in his head and his legs fold underneath him like a puppet that has just had its strings cut.
Apparently, Max is an accidental drug addict. He didn't MEAN to become an addict, he was forced to be one (long story). And now "Mia" is his babysitter. Max is useless, because he's a recovering drug addict.
And he doesn't know that "Mia" is really Jenna, the one who killed his dad. Still, she babysits him, they run away together when ACID comes close. "Mia" mothers Max's weak, sickly ass.
He’s fever-hot. Crap. Maybe he hasn’t just got a cold.
‘I’m sorry,’ he croaks.
‘Don’t worry about it. You can’t help being ill,’ I say.
Only to have him turn completely against her when he discovers her true identity.
‘You lying, murdering bitch.’ His eyes are shining with fury and hate. ‘All this time, I thought you were helping me. I thought you cared. And it was all lies.’
So much for being grateful. And when ACID agents catch up to them, it's "Mia's" ass that Max hands them on a platter.
‘You don’t want me!’ he yells. ‘You want her! She’s a murderer!’
Ah, young love! Such loyalty!
Part II: Jessica Stone: And now "Mia" is in prison. Falsely accused of yet another crime she hasn't done. But she's not worried about her impending death.
He’ll never know, now, how much I care about him. I want that moment back where he tried to kiss me. And this time, I want to let him, and I want to kiss him back.
And knowing I’ll never have that again makes me want to curl into a ball and howl.
Also known as: priorities, Y DO U NOT HAZ THEM?!
Jenna "Mia" is now revealed to be Jenna. She has two choices. Death, or a new identity, with an erased memory to go along with it. She chooses the latter. She is now "Jessica Stone." Spoiled, pampered Upper girl, assigned a new LifePartner, going about her business, blissfully free of all worries.
But she can't help herself. She can't stop thinking about Max! Poor, poor Max! Poor Max who fucking sold her out! She needs to rescue him from prison! But wait! Alas, her fate is not her own. Apparently the people who rescued her in the beginning (remember them? Like 1000 fucking years ago that was) has a Big Secret Plan all along! (where the FUCK were they?!) They are going to overthrow ACID. They're going to bring freeeeeeedom to the whole fucking Former United Kingdom. And they need Jenna Mia Jessica Jenna's help! All right! Now we're getting somewhere.
Except...what about Max?
So these Secret Super Special Rescuing Agent People have two choices. They can either:
1. Save the world
2. Save Max
OH, GEE. I WONDER WHICH OPTION OUR BRAVE FUCKING JESSICA MIA JENNA IS GOING TO CHOOOSE!!1!11ONE!1111
‘So why can’t they rescue Max, then?’
‘It’s too risky. If any of the FREE operatives there were to even try to make contact with Max, our cover could be blown.’
‘That’s so wrong!’ I cry.
The Setting: Also known as: WUT? Ok, so it's the year 2113. It's like 100 fucking years in the future. And England is pretty fucking unrecognizable. There's random ass bank collapses and shit and 53 fucking years ago, some people decided to take over England and restore morality to allllllllllll the peepz!
So now we have the Independent Republic of Britain. Where girls are forced to get married at 16. Where marriage is no longer known as marriage but as "LifePartnered." Where there are public "LifePartner" ceremonies with big beautiful frilly fucking pricy dresses like a fucking quinceaneara or whatever they call it---party (I took French, not Spanish, ok?!). You have to apply for and get permission to have a child. There are fucking walls everywhere. There are Outer parts of London, Middle parts of London, and Upper parts, for lower, middle, upper classes.
And why do people get to be in Upper levels of London?
‘Because we deserve it,’ Dad told me.
Oh. Makes perfect fucking sense -_-
What the fuck?! How did things change so drastically? I mean, what the fuck is with the no-marriage-LifePartner shit, what's with the getting married---oh, excuse me, LifePartnered at 16?! How the FUCK did that come about? I'm not saying that things can't drastically change in 50 years, I mean, look at Afghanistan. Back in the 60s the women in Afghanistan were wearing miniskirts and going to colleges and partying, and look at them now. But there was an actual basis for change, there were explanations, their country turned to ultra-conservative based on their religion. Are you trying to tell me that a Western country would go for that shit without giving me an adequate explanation?!
Mia/Jenna/Jessica: Idiocy. Jenna is sold to us as a tough chick, but whatever, I don't see it. Throughout the book, Jenna is constantly saved by the act of God, or deus ex machina. She gets into a tough spot with an ACID officer. BAM, someone distracts the officer so that she can escape. She almost gets caught by another team of officers. OH WHOOPS THE OFFICERS JUST WALK RIGHT BY HER HIDING SPOT BECAUSE THEY DON'T THINK SHE COULD POSSIBLY HIDE THERE. Oh, they're about to get caught again! BOOM! Strangers to the rescue. Mia's about to die! AAAAAAAAAAH SHIT oh wait no, someone dies to save her life.
Fucking spare me, please.
All Mia does throughout the book is quiver, shake, quake in her pants, and regret not kissing Max. Her acts of heroism occurs so infrequently and when she finally does pull off some shit, it's so fucking improbable that I can't buy it. It's basically: GIRL PULLS OFF IDIOTIC ACT OF HEROISM IN THE NAME OF LOVE. Girl saves the world by accident.
Fuck that shit.