Book Review: California by Edan Lepucki

Posted August 28, 2014 by Kara in book review, Kara / 6 Comments

Book Review: California by Edan LepuckiCalifornia by Edan Lepucki
Published by Little Brown on July 8th, 2014
Genres: adult, dystopia
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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two-half-stars

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can't reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant. 

Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent,California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and irrepressible resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

I don’t know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with the cover. It’s my favorite cover of the year, by far. I love forests, the simple spine with large white font, basically I love the design and it’s what made me want to read the book more than anything, I think. Plus, it’s an adult dystopian, and those are still somewhat rare. I’ve read a few, but none impressed me. Neither did California.

This is the author’s debut novel, and it shows. The writing is really weak, particularly in the beginning and the end. The middle section is alright and that’s when I enjoyed it most, but the ending was absolutely ridiculous. Disappointing. And the reason why is thus: A large chunk of this book’s content seems to be building up to something. Some kind of solution, a big climax, an ominous conclusion. It never comes. The high point of the book is a five minute chase through the forest that’s barely suspenseful. The ending is like a whimper of what it could be. It was sad.

Here’s the thing though. I enjoyed the setting completely. I loved how the author utilized the setting to build a story that was, for the most part, character driven. Not a whole lot happens in this book–it’s about family, mostly, and the choices humans make in a difficult world–but I was never bored. Once you get past the weak opening chapters, it’s easy to picture this scary world. The problem is, I was never shown how scary it could be. There was one flashback, but if it’s not happening in the present, it doesn’t have the full impact that it could.

So it’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. But at best, this is an average dystopian that was very vague and didn’t deliver on its promises. It wasn’t executed as well as it could be. For a debut novel, it’s not bad. I do think the author has the potential to get better, and she could possibly translate the subtlety of her writing into something great. But it just wasn’t here. The weirdest part was all the tension in the middle part of the book when Cal and Frida finally got to The Land. It kept building and building, and nothing happened, like the countdown timer on a bomb, and then when it hits 0:00, absolutely nothing happens. Meh.

It could have been better. Oh, and Cal was freaking annoying, controlling, and a piece of shit. I was over him by page 30. Frida can do way better.

kara

6 responses to “Book Review: California by Edan Lepucki

  1. Well, this is definitely disappointing
    I have never read an adult dystopian and this was sounded good. but i hate it when I don’t like the main characters of a novel. it ruins the read for me
    great review, though
    Your reader,
    Soma
    Soma Rostam recently posted…Bout of Books 11.0 Wrap Up!My Profile

  2. I love this cover, I love forest as well and it’s just so cleverly done with it titled on it’s side. I am sad it was just average. I don’t think I’ve ever read an adult dystopia before. I don’t like endings where there’s so much build-up and then just meh, what a disapointment :(. I don’t think I’ll be reading this book, but it’s has a stunning cover that’s for sure!
    Lola recently posted…Book Blitz: Someone Like You by Karen RockMy Profile

  3. I just would like to say that adult dystopian books are not “quite rare.” They’ve been in existence since the 1800s, and the majority of dystopian books are actually adult books. You can see a partial list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dystopian_literature

    I can also name quite a few that I’ve personally read in the last few years alone:
    The Postmortal by Drew Magary, MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess, Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang by Kate Wilhelm, Grey by Jon Armstrong, etc…
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    • Yes, I am well aware of that. I was referring to books in recent years and comparing it to the number of YA dystopians that have been released. Compared to that, adult dystopians are not as popular. I’ve read quite a few adult dystopians myself, just saying. But I am sorry I was not more clear in my review.

      That said, I don’t need to be patronized on my own blog, and the tone of your comment comes off that way. That is certainly not welcome here or something we are used to. So please be cognizant of your approach in the future. Thanks.

  4. Hmmm good to know! I remember Colbert mentioning this book to try to boost it but I didn’t even realize it was dystopian, haha. As tempting as it is to give it a try for that novelty of an adult dystopian, I think I have too many other promising books on the pile at the moment *sigh*
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