Renegade (The Elysium Chronicles #1) Featured
Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she's believed that everything is perfect. Her world. Her people. The Law. But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into Elysium's secluded little world, Evelyn comes to a startling realization: Everything she knows is a lie. Her memories have been altered. Her mind and body aren't under her own control. And the person she knows as Mother is a monster. Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb...and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.
Way Darker and More Awesome Than the Cover Suggests
I suspect I know what you're thinking. You're looking at that cover and imagining that this will be yet another cheesy romance disguised as dystopia, with a world built solely to keep the hero and heroine from being able to get it on. Well, let me tell you right now, this is not the case here. The cover is beautiful and has a girl in a dress and just doesn't look like the cover for a true, creepy dystopia. You know what, though? This cover fits the book perfectly AND Renegade also happens to be a true dystopia, one that is freaky and creepy as all get out, and, oh my, did I love it.
You're still skeptical, right? I mean, the first sentence is "My life is just about perfect." That's a little barf-inducing. That was my thought too, so I don't begrudge you this suspicion. I worried at first because it did seem like what I expected: a selfish, naive heroine and a cheesy setup for a romance. I mentally prepared myself for the imminent headdesk that didn't come. I promise you that there's a reason that Evelyn acts the way she does in the beginning, and that reason is dark and shiver-inducing.
What's funny is that for the first couple of chapters this book is straight-up The Little Mermaid. I could think of nothing else at first, and it still makes me laugh. Evelyn likes to spend a lot of time in her garden, the privileged favorite of Mother, the leader of the people. Evelyn, though mostly a good daughter, is a little forgetful, a little disobedient. More obviously, Evelyn gets into trouble for collecting a coin from the surface, since, you know, they live in a community under the sea and aren't supposed to be interested in those on the surface. Mother's wrath reminded me heavily of Triton's when Ariel was all obsessed with the Eric statue and saved the real Eric and everything (though his anger pales in comparison to Mother's when the surface dweller Gavin appears, though that's a topic for later). Anyway, this concludes my discussion of The Little Mermaid.
Things quickly take a turn for the much less Disney, however. Enjoy the lava-shiny happy bits while they last, because it's pretty much going to be a mindfuck for the rest of the journey. As I've mentioned Mother is one scary bitch. She reminds me a bit of Eldest from Across the Universe for those of you who are familiar with that: willing to do anything to make sure her utopia remains just that. She has some serious control issues. Perhaps, though, you need a concrete example of just how horrifyingly awful and terrifying she is to believe my assessment. Well, I'll do you one better: I'll give you two examples.
1. Mother has created her idea of the perfect society in her underwater paradise. Elysium is entirely self-sufficient, can produce all of its food, technology and materials right there, with no need to go to the violent, war-torn surface. They are safe and happy. Every single person in Elysium is also blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Yeah, if taking a page out of Hitler's book doesn't have you fetching a straitjacket to stuff Mother into, then I think you probably need to go get some more education.
2. Even more horrific, since Mother could perhaps have just collected good Aryan stock to bring down with her and not created her society of people with what she believes to be perfect genetics through genocide, are the Enforcers. Every society needs police, of course, because accidents happen and people aren't perfect. Mother's Enforcers, though, are all women, taken from their parents at the age of three to be molded into the perfect killing machines.
Yeah, so this one definitely is not in the camp of fluffy books packaged as dystopias as an effort to make more money. It IS a dystopia. Hurrah! I really appreciated Souders' world building and writing, which worked really well with the story she's telling. I also thought the snippets of the society's governing tenants and documents were used to great effect at the beginning of each chapter.
The only weak point for me at all was in the characterization. Of course, this is largely intentional, I think, though I cannot explain precisely why without spoiling something I want to leave completely new to you. I think she gets the narration exactly right for what she's doing, but Evelyn is a little hard to feel with as a result. I will say thought that Evelyn will probably surprise you. She grows and changes constantly as the book progresses; like the ocean, she has hidden depths. Because we get everything through Evelyn's lens, however, the other characters do not coalesce into anything tangible.
More troubling is the instalove. Yes, I know, I hear you crying. While not ideal, I do think the instalove here is less obnoxious than most because of the circumstances they're in and because the society does not exist solely to keep them apart. The romance is there, but it's not the central struggle of the book.
Renegade is jam-packed with action and will totally mess with your head. There are a lot of dissapointing dystopias out there, as happens in any absurdly popular genre, but this one rocks and is definitely worth a read for dystopian fans. I am so excited to find out what will happen in the next book, because the story could go so many places right now and that's just fabulous!
Deceptively disturbing, Renegade starts off relatively utopianesque, merely hinting at the possibility of darker themes to come. As Evie’s memories beging to resurface, and she stumbles upon horrifying truth after horrifying truth, you quickly realize that Renegade is anything but a utopian in the face of Mother’s twisted and gruesome plans for Elysium.
"My life is just about perfect."
Evie’s motto, on the surface, is seemingly correct. She spends her days gardening or practicing the violin, courting several suitors in the hopes of finding a compatible partner and tending to various tasks handed out by Mother. As the Daughter of the People, she must show the civilians of Elysium, an underwater domed community separated from the dirty and war-stricken Surface Dwellers, how a real lady responds in various stressful situations in order to lead by example. But something’s…not right. She begins to notice that the voice in her head telling her how wonderful everything is sounds a lot like Mother, that pieces of her memory are mysteriously absent and the memories that do return in flashes, tell a vastly different story then the one her Mother-sounding conscience would lead her to believe.
The buildup for Evie’s repressed memories was fantastic. I literally couldn’t put down Renegade for the first half, because I just had to know how Mother was controlling Evie and her memories. As details began to surface, I read on in open-mouthed shock as the extent of Mother’s madness became apparent. Conditioning, manipulation, genetic experiments – nothing was off-limits in Mother’s quest for a perfectly subordinate society. While I was slightly disturbed by some of the more gruesome scenes,
"The hallway is covered with dead bodies. The floor is sticky with partially dried pools of blood. The walls and even the ceiling are covered in sprays of blood. And it drips from the ceiling like sprinkles of rain."
it was Mother’s torture of the psyche that truly unnerved me. The ways in which she manipulated so many people, who remained oblivious to her methods, had me fearful for Evie’s life for much of Renegade.
Adding to the depth of Mother’s psychological torture was watching Evie realize that she was not spared in Mother’s experiments. Evie’s gradual mistrust of Mother added so many layers to her already complex characterization, that I couldn’t help but empathize with her situation. Literally everything she thought she remembered, everything she had been taught, had been a lie and had been manipulated intentionally by the person she thought she could trust the most. As Renegade’s plot progressed, Evie began to realize that thanks to Mother’s experiments, she couldn’t even trust herself. I got so wrapped up in the psychological elements that I was oblivious to anything else that might have been happening; Souders had me completely and irrevocably wrapped around her devilishly twisted finger.
Renegade’s pacing was fantastic, the suspense was at an all-time high for the majority of the plot and everything that happened was logical – it made sense. The only reason Renegade is losing a star is because of the romance. It definitely crossed into insta-love territory, which surprisingly, I was able to overlook because of the extreme situation Evie and Gavin found themselves in. It wasn’t hard to imagine that Evie was the most beautiful creature Gavin had ever set eyes on, creating the attraction necessary for him to develop strong feelings. And being so intrinsically tied to her self-realization, Evie’s attraction to Gavin also made sense because he was present for the most important moment of her life. But even though I was able to logically make sense of their relationship, I didn’t necessarily believe in their feelings for one another. It didn’t take away from my reading experience necessarily, but the romance didn’t add anything to Renegade for me either. So I was kind of left wondering what the point of it all was.
From it’s opening pages, Renegade had me under its spell. I can’t remember the last time I was so on-edge while reading a book, or the last time I was so thoroughly creeped out.
Mother knows best
Generally speaking, YA dystopians and I don’t get along. I hold every dystopian novel I read up to the measuring stick of A Clockwork Orange, and really, there’s no way to beat that, especially in a book intended for a 15-year-old audience.
I was informed, however, that Renegade by J.A. Souders has a strong mind-control/psychological manipulation theme to it, which I was all over. Kids killing each other in an arena? Cool. Somebody taking over another person’s thoughts and focing/compelling him or her to think a certain way? I am ALL OVER THAT. For serious.
Renegade is about Evie, who’s basically a princess in an underwater bubble. Evie has some memory loss issues, and when a boy shows up from the Surface, she begins to question her life, and after like, two days, she and the boy fall “In love”. Except for the memory loss, this all sounds like typical dystopian fare. However, I must say that Renegade was actually quite good.
The mind control and memory loss were definitely the big attractors with this book, and I thought J.A. Souders delivered exactly what I was hoping to find. Evie’s thought processes were well done and realistic. As little layers of Mother’s real self were revealed bit by bit, things became more and more clear, and I found the whole scenario to be fairly fascinating.
Evie, Gavin, Mother, and all the others were decent characters. I wouldn’t say that Souders potrayed anything “new” or “exciting” by way of personality types, but I was never upset by Renegade’s characters for being shallow or unrealistic.
Souder’s writing was also good, though I did have issues with it. Especially in the beginning, a lot of the scenes lacked spatial awareness, which ended up making things somewhat confusing. For instance, if Evie was in Gavin’s jail cell, and she would make an action, I would have no idea where she was in relation to the door, the wall, or the hallway outside. Without that it was hard to visualize what exactly was going on in a particular setting.
Like I said, I’m not a big fan of dystopian fiction, but all in all, I liked Renegade a lot and thought it was a very good book. I had issues with world-building (I always do), and though I wouldn’t say this is a book to rush out and buy immediately, I enjoyed it a lot. J.A. Souders did a very good job here.
A Beautiful, Creepy, and Exciting Dystopian.
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Tor Teen and Netgalley.)
16-year-old Evelyn lives underwater in a place called Elysium, with large glass domes separating her from the Atlantic Ocean. She is the ‘daughter of the people’ – the adopted daughter of the woman who governs Elysium, known as ‘Mother’) and her job is to breed, due to her perfect genetics.
She’s been sixteen for 3 months already, and she still hasn’t picked a suitor to ‘couple’ with, and her mother is getting impatient.
One day whilst tending to her garden, Evelyn hears alarms going off – it seems that a ‘surface dweller’ has somehow made it into Elysium.
Evelyn has a fascination with the world on the surface, and likes to collect artefacts from the surface that have made their way into Elysium, so she can’t help but try to help the strange boy who has somehow made it through from the surface, and hidden himself in her garden.
Unfortunately, Gavin is caught by the guard and thrown into the detainment centre. Evie cares for him, and tends his wounds, but not without disapproval from her mother and it is only as Evie learns more about Gavin that she also learns more about herself. It seems that ‘Mother’ has been using a type of ‘conditioning’ to keep Evie in line, and Evie realises that her problems with her memory are more to do with her sessions with her ‘therapist’ than with an actual physical/mental problem.
Why does ‘Mother’ use conditioning? What else does she use it for? What else is she hiding from Evie? What has Evie forgotten? And does Evie stand any chance of saving Gavin from execution?
I loved this book. There was no shortage of action right the way through, and the twists and turns just kept being thrown at Evie and Gavin, so that no matter what plan they tried next or how they hoped to outsmart ‘Mother’, she foiled them time and time again.
Evie was such a great heroine. She kept fighting for what she believed to be right, no matter how many obstacles stood in her way, and she constantly kept thinking of new plans not only to help herself, but even to benefit the residents of Elysium. She was so selfless, and so genuine, I just couldn’t help but love her.
I both loved and hated the way ‘Mother’ had used ‘conditioning’, or as Gavin put it – Brainwashing, to train her enforcers and Evelyn. It was so creepy, but effective, and I felt so sorry for Evelyn as she realised that the things that she was saying were not her own ideas, and when it seemed that her ‘training’ was actually working against her. It was so difficult for her to know what was going on when it seemed that her brain had been programmed to work against her!
The world building within Elysium was well thought out, with such simple but effective ideas that worked so well as a whole. The idea of living underwater was also well thought out, and there were plenty of issues that had been solved scientifically and believably. There was also mention given to certain sicknesses caused by living at such high pressures, and also how these problems had been overcome.
I loved the storyline, there were just so many twists and turns that you had no idea what was coming next, and even when it got a bit ‘resident evil’ scary at the end I couldn’t put it down!
Overall; a beautiful, exciting, and creepy dystopian novel; and I can’t wait for the next instalment!
9 out of 10.
Perfect Society Meets Horror Movie
Evelyn Winters lives in Elysium, an underwater utopia that is perfect in every way. But when a Surface Dweller ends up in Elysium, Evie grows curious.
The Surface Dwellers are savages, the caused the war that almost ended the world.
Still Evie wonders if this is really true and begins to find out that the things she's been told, her life is a lie.
And she also just so happens to decide to help the Surface Dweller escape...
Yes, I realize that my "run-down" was not the best run-down but let's get to the point!
This book begins with everything all perfect, nice, pretty, shall I add another positive adjective?
But by the end of the book, Evie is living in a horror movie.
And you know what? I LOVED IT!!
I love the storylines where there's a utopian society that actually turns out to be dystopian! What can I say? I LOVE dystopians!
I also happen to like it when books have a splash of horror and this book had just that!
Now that can't possibly be the only thing I liked, right?
I also liked Evie's inner battle.
Throughout the whole book Evie has to fight herself.
She is losing her memories, and fighting to regain them.
Her mind for many moments in the book is not her own...
Then you add the fact that Evie also has battles outside of her mind at the same time.
I found her inner battles interesting. It showed the transition from perfect to horror movie.
It also brought that edge to the book.
Without Evie's inner battles this book wouldn't be as interesting and would probably put people to sleep.
In summary: I loved how Evie's inner battles were put into the story.
But, of course, there has to be things that I didn't like about the book.
Like Elysium, this book was not perfect.
As you must know, throughout almost the entire book is about Evie and Gavin's (who is the Surface Dweller) escape.
But to me it seems that it took too long for them to escape.
I realize that escaping would not be easy but i'm actually surprised that they didn't get caught (Not that I wanted them to get caught!).
One of the reasons why I felt that it took them awhile to escape is that at certain moments they discovered journal entries.
The entries were honestly important to what was going on but how long did it take them to read them?
They were on the run but I honestly don't think to it only took them a few minutes to read them.
It just makes me very curious...
I also must say that I didn't like the ending.
I WILL NOT be giving the ending away!
I am never happy when others tell me spoilers so I know that you will also not be happy with me if I give you spoilers.
Let's just say that it hit one of my pet peeves.
(It WAS NOT a cliffhanger by the way! Cliffhangers do happen to be one of my pet peeves but this ending did not contain one)
I really did like this book!
You see those stars? I don't give 4 stars to every book!
In fact, if you took away that irking ending I would have probably give this book 5 STARS!!!!
But sadly, endings are very important to me so I have to knock off that one star...
Romance with a psychological twist!
Renegade by J.A. Souders
ARC received from Tor/Forge
Release Date: 11-13-2012
Reviewed by: Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say: Hypnotizing., Harrowing and Hot.
“My life is just about perfect.” ARC, pg. 11
Tantalizingly creepy and lusciously seductive, J.A. Souder’s Renegade pulls back the veil to reveal how desperation, violence, and insanity can alter the fabric of society. J.A. creates a world rife with delusion, where truth has been obliterated, love has been tainted, and justice has been eradicated. Dive into the trenches of Elysium, but be careful, for there are more dangerous creatures than sharks in these treacherous waters.
I Loved Renegade!
From Chapter 1, I was hooked! This book wastes no time getting straight into the action, which is great because I get annoyed when there is too much backstory at the beginning. Right away, we see evidence of Evelyn’s mind control. She is constantly repeating phrases and the things she says sounds very preachy and awkward. I found it so intriguing to read about how this mind control worked, and I really enjoyed how this book jumped straight into the psychological thriller territory! It was unique and not something you see in YA.
I found the similarities between Elysium and Nazi Germany captivating. When I taught 8th grade Literature, I always did an entire until on the Nazi’s, and I would have loved for my students to be able to read this and draw parallels between the two societies. Both have a leader obsessed with the purity of race who will stop at nothing to achieve perfection. Mother was eerie and dark and maniacal, and J.A. Souder’s wrote her madness amazingly well.
What about the characters?
Evie was a testament in contradictions---strong yet weak, loving yet hateful, and submissive yet revolutionary. What’s interesting is that she is a somewhat unreliable narrator because her mind has been manipulated, so I was kept on the edge of my seat wondering when and if she was going to snap. She has flashes of memories throughout the novel, but who’s to say these memories weren’t altered or created to fit Mother’s needs? She was unpredictable and flighty, and I really enjoyed not knowing where she was going to end up—or with who. She was just as likely to become the villain as she was to become the hero---and I LOVED that she walked this line.
Oh, Mr. Surface Dweller, you can couple with me any time you want! (insert giggle) J.A. described him perfectly—so chiseled that you could see the lines of his muscles when he moved. Plus the tan and the golden hair and the gray eyes. Yummy yum yum! Plus, he’s smart, and he is able to figure out what is going on with Evie quickly, which makes him even more hot! I’ll tell you, if I were ever to be under mind control, I would definitely want Gavin to come to my rescue! Add to all that his protectiveness and willingness to die for Evie and you get the perfect hero! (Plus, I imagine his as Chris Hemsworth….drool).
J.A. knows how to write a villain. Mother was a monster. Her words were dripping with venom, her actions riddled with madness, and her smile was laced with seduction. She was manipulative and intelligent---a puppet master to an entire society. And oh did she pull their strings. The world Mother created was terrifying. Perfect and peaceful from the inside, but when you take a step out of her control and look back, you see it for what it truly is—macabre and sinister. I liked that J.A. didn’t hold back with the gruesomeness of the world; it was creepy, but in a great way.
Renegade was one of my favorites of 2012! I loved how J.A. created a dystopian society masquerading as the perfect world. But, get a few chapters in, and that mask will begin to deteriorate until the ugly truth is revealed. Horrifying and entrancing, Elysium will ensnare you and then catapult you into a game of cat and mouse, where reality is manipulated, hearts are betrayed, and death just might be welcome. But then again, your life might be “just about perfect.”
“How can you even know who you are, if you can’t remember who you’ve been?” ARC, pg 87