Release Date ~ June 12, 2012
E-galley received from publisher for review
What if you were mankind’s last chance at survival?
Sixteen-year-old Tess lives in a compound in what was once the Western United States, now decimated after a devastating fourth World War. But long before that, life as we knew it had been irrevocably changed, as women mysteriously lost the ability to bring forth life. Faced with the extinction of the human race, the government began the Council of Creators, meant to search out alternative methods of creating life. The resulting artificial human beings, or Chosen Ones, were extraordinarily beautiful, unbelievably strong, and unabashedly deadly.
Life is bleak, but uncomplicated for Tess as she follows the rigid rules of her dystopian society, until the day she begins work at Templeton, the training facility for newly created Chosen Ones. There, she meets James, a Chosen One whose odd love of music and reading rivals only her own. The attraction between the two is immediate in its intensity—and overwhelming in its danger.
But there is more to the goings-on at Templeton than Tess ever knew, and as the veil is lifted from her eyes, she uncovers a dark underground movement bent not on taking down the Chosen Ones, but the Council itself. Will Tess be able to stand up to those who would oppress her, even if it means giving up the only happiness in her life?
Chosen Ones is a rather ambitious book as it seeks to tackle a number of questions and ideas, while introducing readers to an unfamiliar, disturbing future world. This is an ugly, bitter place to live in, particularly for women. And in this setting, Tiffany sets out to explore some fascinating concepts.
But I found the book to be perhaps TOO ambitious, so that it fell short for me as the first book in a series. I had really hoped for a stronger presentation in regards to themes and dangerous adventure, and found it lacking in a few too many areas and its strengths didn't make that up for me.
- An incredibly twisted, unique post-apocalyptic world:
The setting of Chosen Ones truly horrified me, as it was supposed to. It's in the midst of complete transformation, as "real" humans are gradually dying off with no means to reproduce, and have become inferior to the "new and improved" humans (a.k.a. chosen ones) who are essentially manufactured people, created by scientists and extremely advanced technology. Books like these are everywhere, but this is a world that I found to stand out among the rest as a very unique (and scary) idea. And because women are unable to reproduce, intimacy of any form between males and females is looked down upon and almost shunned to an extent. So the girls (like Tessa) seem to be fairly naive, which leads to some really creepy and disturbing moments.
- Challening ideas and thoughts:
There are so many struggles within this world, and I was pleased to find that many of them are ideological struggles. It's a battle of IDEAS primarily, and I can tell that Tiffany is very intelligently trying to present some thoughtful questions and to challenge her readers. Humanity versus science. Creator versus the created. Freedom versus choice. What does faith mean? How do you challenge the norms and those in power? How far are you willing to go to fight for what you believe in? These are just as applicable to us even now, and there are no easy answers.
I had a very hard time following most of what was happening in Chosen Ones. The world was so far off and so detailed (yet riddled with secrets) that it was hard to follow what was happening and why it was happening. And nobody really seemed to question any of this; it's glossed over that, in Tessa's lifetime, women were suddenly unable to reproduce anymore. They just stopped. And I'm not clear on this, but it doesn't appear to be a generational thing either and yet no one really questions it. No one seems to find it suspicious or beyond odd- they just accept it and realize that life sucks, and so during Tessa's lifetime women are suddenly blamed for everything. There are a lot of IDEAS but they come across so forcefully instead of being subtlely woven within the story itself. And it seemed like the setting and character were being used as tools to promote an idea, rather than show the implications and results of an idea.
My friend Christa @ Hooked on Books wrote a very thoughtful blog post discussing why it seems that in future worlds, most books seem to feature a society that looks down on and even hates women. I'm sure for most it's a plot device to feature strong, brave heroines but I had a hard time buying into this idea that within the span of 12 years, women went from having children, and families were there, to suddenly being unable to reproduce and so they're taught that they're weak and emotional and will all seduce men if they're not careful and die because they'll end up pregnant. And birth control is black market, apparently. I just couldn't follow this without more background information, and I'm fairly certain we're being set up for a big reveal later on in the series. But it doesn't make sense for this book.
The other problem I had wtih this book were the characters. It seemed like there were so many, and they weren't very well fleshed out so I kept forgetting who a person was when a name was mentioned. The story itself is really about Tessa, and it seemed like the secondary characters were there as decoration more than anything. And the dynamics between them reminded me far too much of The Hunger Games in a number of ways. The story itself is drastically different, but the relationships in it? Definitely more than a few similarities. You have a cold and jaded heroine, who distances herself from just about everyone (who is also very important for the political struggle, for some reason). A younger sister she, at times, feels the need to protect from this ugly world (now, that one's usually a given in any sibling relationship). Two boys the heroine is close to - one a childhood friend with a strong desire to fight back agains the establishment, at just about any cost, and a new one who wants to protect her. Plus, a dead father and a useless mother. And I likely wouldn't have picked up on this at all, except that there's a scene where Tessa is watching another character be punished for a crime and she ends up screaming out that she volunteers to take on some of said punishment. That part really reminded me of the Reaping. But the character dynamics just weren't strong enough to make me really care. Without understanding Tessa's motivation, she's just a very aloof character that I couldn't connect with or understand why she acted in certain ways.
The book is also pretty heavy on the romance, which I didn't entirely buy into. It's far too on and off, and Tessa is such reacts so immaturely and just doesn't learn from the past at all. It felt a little too rushed and chaotic for someone as cynical and cautious as Tessa. And the story really does revolve around the love story. But I do have to say there are a couple of really sweet, totally moving scenes between the two characters. VERY touching moments at times, that I couldn't help but love a little bit. So much swoon!
There are some pretty great twists by the end too, although the action was completely ignored unfortunately. But I predict more great twists and reveals in the later books.
But ultimately, I found myself far too frustrated with the majority of the story. I was hoping for there to be something to shine through, but ended up left with very little to show for itself.