She was wrong.
In the Community, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban development have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives.
Lyla Hamilton and her parents moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:
Pioneer is her leader.
Will is her Intended.
The end of the world is near.
Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves and prepare to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound's underground fortress--the Silo.
Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she'd rather think about a certain boy outside the development than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But as the end of days draws near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.
Pioneer leads Mandrodage Meadows, a simple community that lives as separate from the rest of society as possible. On the surface, their little community's a bit odd, but, when you dig down into it, things get creepy fast. For one thing, the teens, who are the youngest in the community, are all paired off. Pioneer matched them up into affianced couples. Also, they're not allowed to leave the walled community without express permission from Pioneer. They all also need to practice shooting, in preparation for killing other humans, who might try to break into the silo and steal their stuff in the coming Armageddon. The Brethren, who speak through Pioneer, will only protect the chosen.
Lyla's family fell in with Pioneer when he came to sympathize with them following the abduction of the eldest daughter. He found people mired in grief and weak to suggestion of anything that might make life better, and who, more to the point, had the required skill sets he needed. Cult leaders have to be smart and ruthless.
There are a lot of intense scenes in Gated, and it will have a lot of appeal for thriller fans. Even the romance is done fairly well, I think. Lyla becomes a bit overly obsessed with Cody, but that's a nice metaphor for her longing for something outside the community. She's curious about him because he's something new and her engagement to Will isn't want she wants. He signifies her desire to explore something else. It's not so much about him in my mind as about anything that's new and different.
What Left Me Wanting More (or in one case less):
Unfortunately, I never bonded with Lyla. She is both too naive and not naive enough to work for me in this context. I think the reason I felt so ambivalent was that she was questioning the society from the start. Though I can see most of the others buying into Pioneer's schtick, she never really did and she's fairly naive, so I never felt as intimidated by him or the cult as I think I should have. Perhaps if there had been some flashbacks to the referenced time period when she really didn't think Pioneer was all that, I would have felt more of her pain in seeing her whole world shaken by the realization.
My other issue is that, though initially listed as a standalone, Gated now has a sequel to follow. Honestly, Gated works just fine as a standalone and I don't see why one is needed in this case. While it's not Parker's fault, I'm losing patience with the endless onslaught of the few standalone novels becoming sequels.
The Final Verdict:
Readers who enjoy thrillers will definitely want to check out Gated as will, for lack of a better term, cult enthusiasts. There's a lot of action and a lot of creepiness in here to enjoy.
Gated builds its anticipation slowly, introducing us to the protagonist, Lyla, whose family, in the wake of 9/11, suffers a tragedy leaving them broken and emotionally vulnerable to the charismatic Pioneer. He seemingly has nothing but the family's best interest at heart when he suggests Lyla's family, and a few other families undergoing other hardships, move to the middle of nowhere, Mandrodage Meadows, to escape the evils of the world. Pioneer tells them they have all been chosen by the Brethren (deities that only communicate with Pioneer) to survive the coming destruction of the earth happening in only a few months from the start of the novel. In the Community, Pioneer runs a tight ship never allowing any contact with the outside world except for a few supply runs done in the nearby town. There's no TV, internet, newspapers or magazines allowed for fear of corruption of the outside world. Pioneer exerts full control over all parts of their lives right down to pairing their children off for marriage.
Reading Lyla narrate the novel with such confidence in Pioneer is a mixture of downright disturbance and horror. Parker cleverly captured Lyla's fear, nativity and ignorance perfectly, while at the same time crafting a villain that is so hard to pinpoint. What are his motives? Does he really care about their well fair? Or, how did one man manage to convince a group of intelligent, rich families to abandon everything and move out in the middle of nowhere? It was all very fascinating to watch unfold. But it was even more interesting to see Lyla slowly uncover the truth by way of her relationship with the outsider Cody. I couldn't help but feel incredibly sorry that her entire world was a lie. She's not a character that you would consider badass or weak, but rather, one who learns to adapt to her situation as it changes. In this sense, Parker did an excellent job with her character growth.
The one piece of criticism I would have would be Cody's character. I really enjoyed the romance between him and Lyla. It doesn't consume the plot like other novels and Lyla doesn't lose her head as soon as she meets him. What their encounter does bring is the one thing Pioneer has been desperate to keep out of the Community: Doubt. She's confused over her feelings for Cody when she has only brotherly affection for her Intended, Will. Cody was never a bad character and I didn't dislike him, but as his role in the novel grew, I never felt I got a good handle on who he really was. Instead, he felt more like Lyla's way out of the Community verses a legit contender for her affections.
The one thing that I really appreciated and loved about Gated was how each chapter started with a quote that hinted at Pioneer's psyche. In the beginning, most chapters featured one from either a religious text like the Bible or from Pioneer himself. Seeing the correlation of his words and the religious quotes really sent chills up my spine because, at first, he doesn't seem dangerous and you can see how it could be so easy for someone to follow someone like him. But as we get further into the story where Pioneer's behavior becomes more and more erratic, the quotes become increasingly alarming in context. We start to see Pioneer's true nature through the quotes from Charles Manson and Jim Jones. From there, the novel steps into full-on suspense mode, making it incredibly difficult to put down.
The ending wraps everything up in a very satisfying manner for a standalone book. While, most of the loose ends are tied up, it does still leave you with a few questions. I still wonder if Pioneer himself was initially responsible for the tragedies that brought all of the families to Mandrodage Meadows in the first place. Did he emotionally break those families only to put them back together truly broken, some beyond fixing? It's a chilling thought.
All in all, Gated is a pretty fantastic debut that has easily made its way to my favorites of 2013 shelf. This is a novel that I'd highly recommend readers who are into psychological thrillers and/or cult novels. If you do embark on this page-turner, be sure to carve out plenty of time to finish the second half in one sitting!
The society at Mandodrage Meadows is the type of place outsiders look upon with a mixture of curiosity and fear. The members do not interact with the modern world as much as they can help it, aside from the occasional run in to town for supplies. They stockpile. They create a bunker, and they’re waiting the apocalypse. Each member is paired off with another for families, and all of the families have undergone trauma of some kind, and are looking at the society as a place of healing. At the front of it all is Pioneer, the leader of them all.
I thought Parker did a terrific job of writing the world of Mandodrage Meadow as both appealing and off-putting at the same time. It was easy to see what could attract families, especially families who had lost loved ones, to the community and simple life the compound gave. Yet, Parker never slipped into making the life seemed ideal. All along, the idea that this society was so carefully structured that an outside magazine or a pair of teenagers sneaking out could bring this down.
Lyla navigated her world with such ease, and at first I couldn’t help the dissonance I felt as an outsider looking in and the comfort she seemed to carry. Couldn’t she see how scary and wrong this was? How the end of the world could come at any moment, yes, but that all the prepping and packing and hiding away just built fear, not tore it down? That was everything the reader in me wanted to say as I read about Lyla’s day-to-day life, but of course her comfort makes sense. She wasn’t born in Mandodrage Meadows, so it’s not really the only life she’s ever known, but it’s close enough.
Throughout the story, Lyla slowly opens herself up to the outside world a little bit more, and this was also fascinating to see from the perspective of someone who doesn’t really live in the same world so many of us do. I thought her character was well-written and that her curiosity, discomfort, and terror were all presented well.
Pioneer, the leader of Mandodrage Meadows, is one of the most complex and complicated characters I’ve ever read about. The story is told through Lyla’s first-person POV, so we only see Pioneer through Lyla’s eyes. We see her awe and admiration at the beginning, her confusion and hurt in the middle of the book, and her ultimate anger by the end. Pioneer is deranged, but the way his carefully composed character presents as pleasant and charismatic is. . . disturbing, to say the least.
Gated is a difficult book to read. It moves slowly as Lyla lives out what her community truly believes is the last of days, just to culminate in a quick and breath-catching last fifty pages. It’s not a book for everyone, and throughout Gated, readers will really SEE the world that Pioneer has built, which can be difficult reading as an outsider, having already labelled this group a cult. But it’s still a book I would recommend to people who enjoy the study of cults and find them sadly fascinating, as I do.
Final Impression: Not an easy or fun read by any means, but I thought Gated was an excellent look into a cult that is preparing for the end of the world and seeing the effect the community and it’s leader can have on a teenager’s life. I thought the society at Mandodrage Meadows was written really well in a way that both made me understand how the community to seem so compelling to people while at the same times still being disturbing.
Lyla was a great character and narrator, maybe a little out of place in a society like she lived in. She thought different, she was bold and strong and stood out, and wasn’t like the other teenagers that truly believed Pioneer. But something about her, just worked for me. The secondary characters brought their own level of intensity to the story, from Cody is the outsider that comes to visit and Lyla is drawn to, to Marie the best friend who has a fascination with the books from the outside. There a few others, that I enjoy as well. There was a little bit of a romance between Lyla and Cody but it didn’t play a big role.
This isn’t a fast paced story at all, and it needed be this way to give the full feeling of the life they live in the Community and especially the domination Pioneer had over “his people”. They have been lead to believe the world outside their walls is in a state of chaos. Pioneer the leader, was a fantastic villain. I’m not sure whether he truly believed what he told them, or he was just plain psycho. Anyway, Lyla is stuck, she wants to be with her family but at the same time, she is certain that things aren’t what they seem. She does all she can to find the truth. Following her and watching her grow into her own was a part that I liked watching. And with the twist climatic twist toward the end, I so engrossed I just couldn’t stop reading. It’s not a happy ending but closure for those in the Community, and an ending that was just right for a book like this.
Gated is dark and thrilling, and takes the reader into cult living, and was horrifying and intriguing all at the same time. The quotes at the start of each new chapter, just added to the creepiness of it all. I think this definitely makes you think, and worth reading.
For more review, check out Book Live Forever
Every now and then, I read a book--a book that opens my eyes to the world and helps me see the world in a different way. Gated is that book, the kind of book that's eye opening and just absolutely wonderful. Amy Christine Parker absolutely blew me away with Gated. Gated is an incredible, important novel that I think everyone needs to read at least once in their life because it's life-changing. Read Gated and your view of the world will forever be changed for the better.
Gated hits the reader hard with a story that is extremely poignant and thought-provoking. Most books, in my opinion, don't portray good or evil in the correct way at all. So many books show good and evil in a black and white way where a person is all good or all evil. Not only is that not realistic, it's extremely irritating to read. Amy Christine Parker expresses in Gated how thin the blurred line is between good and evil; how we all have a little both of good and evil in us.
The characters in Gated are extremely realistic and they are just the type of conflicted characters that I seem to love. Pioneer is the kind of character that you will never quite be able to decipher because there are just so many layers to him. Does he actually believe he's following divine orders? Does he truly believe what he's doing is right? He's one of the best characters I've ever seen written and there is just so much to his character. Lyla is also a character that was executed perfectly throughout the novel. Her transition from being a naive person to someone who is strong-headed and strong. Lyla's character really made me question whether "Ignorance is bliss"or if the old adage is a bunch of drivel. Is hiding from the evil in the world any good? Is there evil everywhere? There was just so much to ponder over while reading Gated because it was such a thought-provoking novel.
I have never been in a cult and I will never join one, but I feel as if Parker hit the nail on the head with recreating what being in a cult is like. All of the little intricacies of Mandrodage Meadows were brilliant and well-done. I felt the looming danger that the outside world posed to this cult and the danger everyone felt. There is a perfect sense of urgency and tension throughout the novel like the world was actually ending.
The plot of Gated was incredible and was extremely fast-paced right from the first few pages. Gated is without a doubt, an intense, memorable thriller that engrossed me right away. There is never a moment where the plot is at a stalemate and the plot is always being progressed by even the smallest details. This is one of those books where I think that the romance was absolutely necessary to add to the entire picture. The ending leaves no loose ends unattended to and this makes me as if this is a stand-alone.
Gated is an incredible, fast-paced thriller that is sure to wow readers of all ages. I can honestly say that Gated has changed me as a person and how I perceive things. Just everything about Gated was enticing to me. I can't express how brilliantly this novel was executed and how everything just seemed to fall into place perfectly. I know for sure that I will be reading Amy Christine Parker's sophomore novel and I hope it's as picture-perfect. Gated is a book that will linger in your mind long after you read the final sentence, it's truly unforgettable!