Published by Saga Press on February 3rd 2015
Genres: young adult, dystopia, Dystopian
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It has been nearly two decades since the breakout of the Third World War, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp ruled by island native Rolladin, who controls the city’s survivors with an iron fist. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the Central Park POW camp is the only home she’d ever want.
When strangers arrive in the park, carrying a shocking message, Sky and Phee discover there’s more to Manhattan—and their family—than either of them had imagined. As disturbing secrets about the island begin to surface, Sky and Phee have no choice but to break the rules to uncover the full truth of their long-shrouded history. When their search for answers erupts into violence, the girls must flee into Manhattan’s depths, where their quest for a better future will force them to confront the island’s dark and shocking past.
Lee Kelly’s gripping debut novel is a pulse-pounding journey through a city that’s as strange as it is familiar, where nothing is black-and-white and buried secrets can haunt.
I heard A LOT about City of Savages when it first came out. I don’t know why, but it was everywhere on Twitter, on Goodreads, on blogs. I bought it back then and fully intended to read it, but then psyched myself out, because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it, and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I’ve done this with so many books, by the way. I still haven’t read the sequel to The Diviners by Libba Bray.
On a whim, and because I had time to read a book I owned and not an ARC, I finally decided to pick this up. And okay, so I gave it a 3.5 star rating. But I really did like it, honest. The first half of the book was awesome. And then the book kind of took a weird turn, and while it wasn’t a bad turn, it did affect my enjoyment of the book. But the thing that irritated me the most was the romance–a love triangle between two sisters and ONE guy.
A love triangle alone is not enough to make me dislike a book. Heck, there have even been some love triangles I’ve liked. But this one….eugh. Two sisters fighting over the same guy is a bit much for me. I get that this can happen in real life, and probably does a lot, actually. But in a dangerous post-apocalyptic world with cannibals and warlords running around? I just feel like these characters have more important things TO DO. Especially when the one sister, the tough, outspoken one named Phee, all of a sudden is nasty to her weaker, more fragile sister, Skyler. I just felt like it was out of character for Phee. She was driven and motivated to make it in this world, and then she is waylaid by silly girl drama. And I truly felt bad for Skyler, because she had done nothing wrong, except have more in common with Ryder.
And then I sort of felt this book had a serious case of instalove. I know some would argue that it wasn’t instalove, but instalust, but either way, the second Skyler sees this guy running through the woods, she is lusting after him. She hasn’t even gotten a good look at his face yet! No one is THAT desperate. Especially when there are guys running all over Central Park. And all of a sudden it’s this one that strikes her fancy. Then later on, he opens his mouth and she finds out he’s British, and oh lord. They haven’t even taken the time to get to know each other. Not even a little bit.
Other negatives? Like I mentioned, the book takes a really odd turn which is not something I can discuss without revealing spoilers. What I can say? I was expecting a book filled with more action, but what I actually got was a mostly character-driven novel. Which may explain why this book was shelved in the adult section, since there are more adult themes, though I DEFINITELY think this could have been shelved in YA as well. I just can’t fathom paying the adult price for this book. It definitely reads more YA, and I would like someone to explain the shelving choice to me because I am a bit confused.
There was a lot I did like about this book, though. First, it was compulsively readable. Even though it didn’t always go where I wanted it too, I never once wanted to stop, and it always kept me turning the pages. I do feel this was because I connected with the author’s voice. It was a writing style that really worked for my brain. I wanted more imagery, but other than that, I felt the narrative flowed really well, and post-apocalyptic New York was a world I could envision. This was a place that could possibly exist if certain events took place.
I do wish there had been more world-building though. What happened to the Red Allies? Did they just go home? What are their countries like? What’s going on in other parts of the U.S? The people in New York City cannot be the last people on earth. So where are all the people?
I think where the book excelled was in its relationships. The sisterly bond–aside from the romance part of it–really worked for me. I liked that there was a lesbian relationship, and that it was just something that happened organically. This was not a book about a LGBT relationship–it was a book that had a LGBT relationship IN it. And those are still rather rare. I liked how the prison system in Central Park functioned. I liked that there was never a clear antagonist until more than halfway through the book.
So even though it wasn’t perfect, I still feel like this is going to be a memorable book for me, and one that I will revisit in my mind from time to time. This will be an author that I follow, and I have her next book on my list, and it’s a complete departure from this one.