Today, I'm reviewing Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam.
I highly enjoyed this book - despite some minor quibbles - and can't wait for ALL of you to read it.
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
A beautifully-crafted world, a thoughtful heroine and an ongoing mystery makes this a book that can’t be missed.
Synopsis via publisher:
A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications—or consequences—of real life.
Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, Patrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father’s unexpected death, Regan can’t bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality.
Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion—accusations that it’s addictive and dangerous— Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claims, she discovers a disturbing web of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty…a decision that will affect the lives of millions.
Suspense, thrills, and romance fuel this near-future story about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world, and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.
Part sci-fi, part dystopian, Gabel and Klam have created an inventive, world where virtual reality is not only very real, but has the ability to fully immerse and distract people from the difficult realities of their daily lives - but at potentially deadly costs.
I've never read anything quite like this book, and I can't wait for all of YOU to read it!
Things that worked:
Unlike your typical dystopian heroine, Regan is extremely ordinary. She's from a wealthy family in a Detroit, but the wealth was built on the strength, technological intelligence and inventiveness of her father - who died earlier in the year from a tragic accident.
Gabel and Klam do a beautiful job of building on Regan as a girl who has felt adrift since her father's death - working through her grief and anger, while also trying to keep her family together. Regan's ordinariness made her extremely relatable, while her occasional sparks of temper - e.g. getting into fights with the school muckraker to defend her father - not only make her likable, but also give us the insight into how she becomes the type of person who eventually starts digging into the mystery of her father's death.
Bottom line: Regan is not only the type of person I want to read about, but she's also the type of person I admire so much more in a YA novel, simply because she's solely relying on curiosity and intelligence to work through her problems vs. super powers. I think that other readers will definitely feel the same way.
Unlike a lot of science fiction or dystopian novels, Gabel and Klam don't throw the readers immediately into the action. They start off by slowly introducing us to Regan, including a prologue of what her life was like before her father's death.
After that, they gradually build into the public rollout of Elusion, while also hinting that not all may be well in the sparkly, incandescent world of Elusion. The plotting and pacing was perfect throughout - I never felt like anything dragged, and the mystery of the situation just kept building, to the point where I was frantically tapping on my kindle, desperate to read as fast as possible.
Because Elusion is at the heart of the story, I think it's worth mentioning on its own. Gabel and Klam have created a program that is amazing, immersive, inventive and creepy. People can literally escape into Elusion even for minutes at a time, all in the hopes of escaping the realities of their world.
The program also brings up a lot of interesting social ideas - e.g. the dangers of isolating one's self in a virtual world, and how people can potentially use great ideas for evil. I think there's a lot more left to explore, and I can't wait to see them do it.
The deeper issues
Even though this definitely isn't the focus of Elusion, Gabel and Klam do a strong job of focusing on some of the deeper issues involving Regan's story.
They cover profound issues, including depression, denial, anxiety and coping with death. I was pretty impressed at how thoughtfully and realistically they worked through Regan's stages of grief, and I think it added both to the characters and to the overall development of the story.
And finally, an overall note:
The writing/world building
While the core focus of Elusion is Elusion, Gabel and Klam have also created a detailed, well thought-out world. Regan's Detroit is a fully-fleshed society, and there's definitely a sense that Gabel and Klam have seriously considered how the technology and lifestyles that we currently have today could morph into what we see in the book.
The richness of the detail/world-building made this a very immersive read, and I often found myself going "Huh, I can see that actually happening" - which made the story that much creepier.
Bottom line: If you want a good example of speculative fiction, this is it.
Things to consider:
The love triangle
While I generally don't mind love triangles, I really wasn't a big fan of the triangle between Rhee/Patrick/Josh.
Gabel/Klam definitely gave Ree compelling reasons to fall for both boys, but the triangle itself played out in a way that felt a little clichéd. (Sorry!) Both of the boys fell into roles that seemed a little too stereotypical - including a jealous turn by one of them that came off as a little too Edward Cullen for me.
I do think that there is definitely room for all three to develop in a way that moves away from the triangle in the second book though, and I’ll be interested in seeing where Gabel and Klam take them.
The world-building in the final third of the book
While the writing remained consistently solid throughout the book, the world-building in the final third of the book definitely surprised me a little. Without giving any spoilers away, Klam and Gabel take the story to a place that's not entirely expected, and may make a few readers raise their eyebrows.
However, they do do it in a way that's pretty thrilling and exciting, and I was still extremely intrigued by these plot twists. YMMV, and I can't wait to hear what you think!
I recommend this book for fans of The Matrix, Tron, and readers of science fiction/dystopian who are looking for a book with a different approach to a traditional genre.
Disclaimer: I received an E-ARC of Elusion via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
About the authors:
Her work has been published in more than a dozen different languages. She grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan. When she was a teenager she starred in Sam Raimi's first short horror movie, later appearing as a "fake shemp" in Raimi's cult classic: THE EVIL DEAD.