Happy Saturday, guys!
So... I hate writing reviews like these. I know how hard authors work to share great stories with readers, and I always feel terrible when I can't recommend a book.
However, I really just couldn't stand The Cage. It was poorly plotted out, and the plot twists were apparent from a mile away. Read on for my thoughts...
Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected publication: May 26th 2015 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Format read: E-ARC via publisher
When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.
Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.
As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?
I totally understand that an author spends an incredible amount of time pouring their love, energy and talent into a book, and it's probably stressful to receive a critical review. This is especially true, when a reviewer is approaching the book from their frame of reference, which is undoubtedly different than the author's.
With that being said, let me start off this review by saying: I totally didn't like The Cage. However. I appreciate the fact that there are people who do love this book, and I'm looking forward to revisiting this book in the future, to see if I'm going to change my opinion.
One of my biggest qualms with The Cage, was with the lack of characterizations from the first pages of the book. Shepherd presents us with a group of characters who are forcibly kidnapped, and wake up far away from home. As a reader, there's an immediate inclination to feel some sort of sympathy for the characters, and hope that they band together and figure a way out of their situation.
But Shepherd's characters don't do anything to earn that sympathy. They immediately start bickering amongst one another, and mindlessly following the very problematic rules of their captors - including procreation. It was actually a fairly depressing commentary on the lack of spirit or ingenuity in teens, and it made me wonder if as humans, we really WOULD just lay down and give in, if in a similar situation.
Even when characters do show a tiny bit of spirit, there is no logical follow through to their thoughts. As things come to a head in the book, Cora makes the decision to try and make a run for it. However, her plans don't really go beyond getting out of the cage. There's no consideration to what she would do next. What about a transport off the planet? How would she get past guards? What was she going to do for food...? I mean, it just didn't make sense.
Outside of problematic characterizations, Shepherd also hit on my one big pet peeve of having dramatic! angsty! romances! during dangerous moments. The characters have romantic drama that would rival a really old school episode of Gossip Girl, which made no sense considering their environment. Yes, the argument can be made that they really had nothing else to do in their cage, but still.
Cora also has a really problematic love triangle involving an alien, and I wanted to facepalm myself throughout that development. I could appreciate what Shepherd was subtly trying to imply - love and romance should have no bounds, including species - but... seriously? He's her captor. It's classic Stockholm syndrome at its best.
And the ending. Oh, the ending. Without giving spoilers away, the ending made me facepalm ridiculously hard, and think "Of course it went there." I know Megan had to set up book two, but I felt like she did it in a way that we've definitely seen before.
Bottom line: there were way too many issues for me to enjoy this book. However, I do think that Shepherd continues to demonstrate her strong writing abilities, and has built up an interesting world, with some decent unanswered questions. I'll be willing to give this series another try in the future.
However, I'm always open to revisiting the book and the series in the future. I've been surprised by authors before, and I have every confidence that Megan Shepherd's writing will continue to impress me, regardless of the story.
I can't really recommend this book for fellow readers with similar tastes in science fiction. You're better off reading some Ray Bradbury, or my go-to favorite, The Rook. However, I will encourage those who do like Megan to read this if you're curious.
About the author:
Megan Shepherd was "born" into the book world, growing up in her parents' independent bookstore in Western North Carolina. She is the author of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER trilogy (Balzer+Bray/2013), and THE CAGE trilogy (Balzer+Bray/2015). When Megan is not writing, she can usually be found horseback riding, day dreaming at coffee shops, or hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. She is represented by Josh Adams at Adams Literary.