Gated by Amy Christine Parker
Series: Gated #1
Published by Random House Childrens Books on August 6th, 2013
Genres: mystery-thriller, young adult
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A fast-paced, nerve-fraying contemporary thriller that questions loyalties and twists truths.
Appearances can be deceiving.
In the Community, life seems perfect. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pioneer invited Lyla’s family to join his group and escape the evil in the world. They were happy to be chosen, happy to move away from New York and start over in such an idyllic gated community. Now seventeen, Lyla knows that Pioneer is more than just their charismatic leader, he is their prophet . . . but his visions have grown dark.
Lyla is a loyal member of the Community, but a chance encounter with an outsider boy has her questioning Pioneer, the Community—everything. And if there’s one thing not allowed in the Community, it’s doubt. Her family and friends are certain in their belief. Lyla wishes she could feel the same. As Pioneer begins to manipulate his flock toward disaster, the question remains: Will Lyla follow them over the edge?
From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand why anyone would join a cult. But Gated tells the story of the Community from the inside looking out, and from behind the gates things are not quite so simple. Amy Christine Parker’s beautiful writing creates a chilling, utterly unique YA story. Perfect for fans of creepy thrillers and contemporary fiction alike.
I didn’t read the description when I picked this up, so I was completely surprised by the plot of the book. That was, for once, a smart move on my part. The description is great, and the entire 9/11 tie-in was a huge shock.
Gated centered more on internal struggle and decides to toss in the action towards the end. For some, this might seem like a huge turn off. I usually side with the books with wonderful character development, so Gated was a hit for me. Our main protagonist, Lyla, was a perfect blend of meek and frustrated, ready to bloom out of her cocoon of self doubt and explore her own line of reason. Since the very start of the book, her internal conflict is right out in the open, and it was very easy to slip into the role and feel the character as much as read about her mental war. I would go so far to say that the author added in a certain creepy level to the writing. I believe most audiences will understand the reality of the book, and be able to comprehend the deeper layer of the plot. However, this works to the advantage of the audience. It parallels the element in slasher movie, when you can see the monster right behind the person on the screen, but all you can do is scream and point.
The subtle hints and clues throughout the story arc honestly hooked me from the first chapter. I don’t know how she did it, but Parker understood how to build up the anticipation, and rode it until the end. I seems that the trend today leans towards borderline assault of the reader. I believe that a majority of fiction on the shelf can be summed up perfectly:
Book: HEY READER, HERE IS AN AWESOME CLUE!! DID YOU UNDERSTAND IT? DO YOU SEE HOW I BRILLIANTLY PLACED THIS PAPER-THIN PLOT DEVICE? LOVE ME!
That is getting old (and painful) – even books I really enjoyed tended to twack me over the head like I was Mrs. Scarlett in the library. The moderate pacing and the peppering of small details throughout the book played in favor of this thriller.
While we’re on the positive side of the review, I’ll throw in that I enjoyed the world building. Even though parts of the ending felt slightly dramatized, overall, Gated felt real. The book smartly references modern media stories, and the observant reader will be quick to see what the entire plot is building towards. On a deeper level, the connection to a majority of the characters scored well. I understand that, as a reader, I need to connect to the main character. Mostly, it is needed to really step inside the book and love it. Even at times, when these characters make decisions or actions that are not agreeable by the reader, we can at least understand the mind of the character. However, it is downright vital not to forget the secondary background characters. At the end of everything, they can either make or break a book. No one likes a stage hog, and this applies to fiction as well. In Gated, the secondary characters in the story leaked their own emotions, without even stepping inside of their narration. Marie, Lyla’s best friend, is a perfect example. She’s a typical social-butterfly sidekick that is very popular right now in fiction. But her connection to the story, and the small glimpses of her own faults and character flaws set her apart from the rest. She brought something real into the story.
The romance was, sadly, the weakest link. The love triangle is present, but the aspect is very flimsy. It was creative and more real-to-life, but it seemed to weigh down the plot at certain times. The romantic sub-plot was greatly needed to set off the events in the book, but I was sad to see that the guys tended to get the short end of the stick. Cody, one side of the triangle, seemed interesting, but he leaned a little to the “pixie manic” side, and never seemed to develop on his own. He was more of a prop than a character, and I was slightly frustrated by the oversight of Cody’s own personality.
Gated was a smash for me. The book smashes its way into virtually untouched territory and settles down, comfortable and confident, into this theme. If you need a summer thrilled read with a smartly woven plot and a lamb-to-lion MC, then this book is for you. Before I bring this to a close, there is a HUGE burning question that I still have at the end, so if you have already read this book, please drop me a line.