If you’re a fan of the recent trend in Lord Of The Flies inspired survivalist-themed YA, this book may be right up your alley.
As the back blurb indicates, Alive utilizes the increasingly popular trope of placing readers in the proverbial shoes of a nearly blank slate character—in this case, a girl with basic skills, personality, and awareness but no background or memory to speak of. This dystopian sci-fi tale is presented from the first-person (present-tense) perspective of M. Savage, a level-headed and calculating girl of indeterminate age and origins, who finds herself leading a band of similarly amnesic youths through a death-encrusted labyrinth.
The advantage of this type of plot unfolding is that the reader is making discoveries and building up the world in their mind at the same time as the heroine. The disadvantages being it can sometimes feel like a contrived game of information keep-away. It’s also difficult to gauge characters motivations and sympathize with their past experiences, given we’re not offered insight into their past—if it indeed exists. The author generally maintains a tricky balance, beginning with characters who mentally believe they are twelve-year-olds, but who clearly have the bodies and hormones in the 18-20 range.
The writing and internal dialogue starts off simplistic and grows with the characters, to some extent. The present-tense handling actually bothered this reader less than it typically does, which says something for Sigler’s storytelling. The characterization was consistent and diverse in representation, offering believable sociological dynamics among perpetually stressed and confused human beings. Em, as the main character ends up calling herself, is somewhat relatable in her drive and thought process—neither passive nor aggressive, but capable of whatever seems necessary to achieve her objectives.
There’s a sort of Maze Runner meets Pandorum ultimate feel. Nothing stood out as particularly original—the plot coming off more as a borrowed amalgamation of tired and true ideas. The science aspect is often dim or simply skipped over in the name of immediate survival, ethical quandaries are frequently touched on to only a pragmatic depth, and a number of things remained unanswered at the end. But there’s enough closure that readers will at least know what’s going on and why, as well as the promise that there is more of the story to anticipate.
On the whole, an entertaining read. Those who either enjoyed Maze Runner, or liked the premise but didn’t care much for the execution, will want to give this one a try.