The first book in a provocative new series from acclaimed author Donna Freitas—Feed for a new generation. Humanity is split into the App World and the Real World—an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy and a dying physical world for the poor. Years ago, Skylar Cruz’s family sent her to the App World for a chance at a better life. Now Skye is a nobody, a virtual sixteen-year-old girl without any glamorous effects or expensive downloads to make her stand out in the App World. Yet none of that matters to Skye. All she wants is a chance to unplug and see her mother and sister again. But when the borders between worlds suddenly close, Skye loses that chance. Desperate to reach her family, Skye risks everything to get back to the physical world. Once she arrives, however, she discovers a much larger, darker reality than the one she remembers. In the tradition of M. T. Anderson’s Feed and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Unplugged kicks off a thrilling and timely sci-fi series for teens from an award-winning writer.
The premise of Unplugged is very creative in that the author uses familiar ideas such as apps and downloading updates to make the virtual world relatable. In fact, though this artificial land is horrifying, Freitas does a great job at demonstrating how it could be appealing. For instance, citizens in this alternate reality never have to waste time cooking food, because they can download it. They also are all set to share a similar appearance that has been constructed based on what most find attractive. In other words, negative body image is not a huge issue here. However, if virtual people want to enhance their looks, they can simply download a supermodel app. With money, anything is possible and easy in virtual land. More than that, these citizens never have to worry about injury, disease, or other ailments to which the human body is prone.
With that being said, I am curious to know more about how the App World works. For instance, Skylar talks about breathing, which brings up the question of its necessity. For instance, do the virtual humans actually have to breathe? Or is that just a part of their code to make them as close to real humans as possible? There are many small points such as this that are not clarified, which definitely leaves me wanting. However, Unplugged is the first book in a series and I would assume more will be uncovered and explained in the sequel.
When considering the writing specifically, the use of past tense feels quite limiting. It seems to dampen the urgency and sometimes gets in the way of the story’s flow. Yet, I do enjoy the novel’s structure with it being split into multiple parts, giving a beginning, middle, and end to each element Skylar faces. I also like the chapter titles, which really set the tone for what is to follow, and the long quotation from the philosopher René Descartes after the dedication page, which introduces the theme of the novel.
Overall, Unplugged is an incredibly original dystopia that is both eerie and frightening, primarily due to the plausible evolution of society and Freitas relatable protagonist, Skylar Cruz, the only seeming voice of reason. It will be exciting to see where the series goes next.
RATING: THREE OUT OF FIVE
Skye was an alright character. I didn’t necessarily think that she was special but she did have depth. Skye did everything that she could to return to her family and was willing to do what she needed to do in order to save people and to prevent a war from happening.
A lot of people feel like this books plot pace was slow but I disagree, I think that if we readers weren’t allowed the time that we were given to get to know the App World we wouldn’t have been able to understand to the fullest extent why Skye wanted to unplug. At first, the world seems interesting, exciting even, but as we progress into the story we see how little it differs from the real world. The rampant shallowness of this world set the tone for how things were run by it’s creators/goverment (hint: very poorly). A scene that stands out is when they are having a funeral and the citizens are more concerned about making it into a party or a political rally than paying respects to the grieving families. Even though I feel like a large part of character growth came from within these chapters in the App world, at times I couldn’t help but wish that we would get to the action sooner, so that’s why I’m taking a star off of my rating.
The romance itself was….not my favorite. I’m not going to spoil it, but I will say that I wasn’t a fan of the love interest. I couldn’t really understand why Sky was interested in a certain character, especially when the character was very deceptive and seemed to hold on tightly to the virtues of the App World but other than that it really wasn’t the focus of the story.
Overall, I am very excited to read the sequel. Unplugged had intrigue, betrayal, a little romance and a lot of plot twists. If you are looking for an intelligent new dystopian series that deviates from the genres usual tropes I would highly recommend Ungplugged.