I was really cautious going into this book. I knew from the synopsis that it had the potential to be a book I really enjoyed. I wanted to try and go in with as little expectations as possible and base my opinion of the book on what I thought, not what others around me thought of it. That is easier said than done, however, as this book as many reviews, and not all of them are good. I am really glad that I ignored the negative reviews and went in with a level head and no expectations.
The best part of this novel was hands down the world building. Kristen Simmons managed to be thorough without it being overdone. From the beginning of the novel, it was clear what the rules and customs of the world were. There was never any confusion in understanding the world as I commonly have with dystopian and fantasy novels. I also enjoyed some of the vagueness she left to some of the worldbuilding. The reader is able to discern some of the technologies that might be what we have today, but they are described through Aya's perception and therefore does not give us an exact description. They could be similar to what we have now or vastly different. I found that this made the book more timeless as if this could be happening in our near future or possibly in a distant future.
I really enjoyed the characterization in this novel. Aya was spunky and free-spirited. She was not afraid to face danger if it meant helping those she loved. She was a complete badass, and yet she was flawed. She was bullheaded and impulsive. She was real, she wasn't perfect, she made rash decisions and it did not always end up in her favor, but she did all she could, but she never stopped fighting to get herself and her family out of danger. It was not just Aya that I enjoyed. I really enjoyed all the characters. Kiran was a great love interest, who went out of his way to help Aya when it meant risking his own life and status in his community, Daphne, was one of my favorite supporting characters. I couldn't stand her in the beginning but she had such a great character arc, I couldn't help but ending up liking her character. I can't say much more as it would spoil part of the book on future readers, but her character ends up being one of my favorites.
One thing I really enjoyed this book was that I felt that it was more realistic than most other YA dystopian's. Aya is not special or chosen. She is a normal girl trying to live her life in a world that wants to confine her. She isn't going out of her way to collapse a corrupt regime or to make the world a better place for all, she is trying to survive and remain free. For me I found this to be a much more realistic take on dystopian novels and I enjoyed it immensely.
While this is a young adult novel, I would not recommend it to the younger demographic of young adult readers. This book does contain themes of sexual and physical violence that I do not think may be appropriate for younger readers. But for those who are able to handle tough content such as what is in the novel, I think it would be a great read. I really loved it, and would recommend it highly.