May I begin by saying how much I enjoyed reading this. It was fast paced, tight, exciting, not a page turner exactly, but the momentum was absorbing and the whole experience bordered on exhilarating.
And I start on that positive note because that’s the easy bit!! This novel is categorised as belonging to the YA genre. I guess you need to define exactly what is meant by YA. Wikipedia defines it as being for readers from 12 - 18. Although it goes on to say that some authors and readers define it as being written for 15 - early 20s. The protagonist is 17 years old when this story begins. Maybe that’s all that qualifies it? But the genre defining has caused some mild controversy due to Mr. Bergstrom’s, possibly ill-advised comments regarding Young Adult fiction n an interview and a perceived contempt for existing dystopian YA work. Hashtags such as #MorallyComplicatedYA have populated social media with some angry responses from YA readers towards Bergstrom even before The Cruelty was published! Now I’m an OA (old adult) and my reading matter is not genre governed. I don't care who the intended audience is, if I want to read a book I’ll read it!! I have enjoyed both YA and dystopian fiction but the real problem for me is that I don't believe this belongs in the Young Adult category. If this book were a film I suspect it may be given an 18 certificate due to the violence and adult themes. I think overall it is an adult book. I can think of several youngsters I wouldn't want reading it.
So in order to qualify exactly why I enjoyed it all of the above needed to be ‘got out of the way’ as it were, to clear the air and proceed with an open mind.
The main character, Gwendoline Bloom, is a teenager, a remarkably resourceful one and living a charmed life considering all her brushes with spies, CIA and Mafia heavies. But she was difficult to engage with as a character because it seem to me that she was functional to the plot. But that could go for all of the characters. They were defined and developed only as far as the plot demanded. More two dimensional than one but I would have liked three!! Gwendoline, through no fault of her own, is being compared to Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior even Lisbeth Salander - publicity blurb comparisons only I hasten to add. Relax. Katniss, Tris and Lisbeth are all safe on their literary pedestals.
The plot is excellent. Very gripping with sufficient detail to tantalise and carry the reader along without being predictable although there was an element of certain situations being contrived. But it’s a story, a fiction and thats part of the fun. It’s action packed and entertaining. I can see it translating well to the big screen.
There is some ambiguity but I sense the way has been paved for a sequel. Will I read it?
Be cruel not to.