Happy Thursday, guys!
Hope all of you are recovering nicely after the long weekend; I think my brain is still in vacation mode.
Today, we're reviewing Unplugged by Donna Freitas. I went into the book not really knowing what to expect, and came out feeling extremely surprised and intrigued by the overall setup of the book.
Published June 21st 2016 by HarperTeen
Format read: ARC via publisher
ISBN: 0062118609 (
Freitas takes a conceit that could have been challenging and unbelievable in lesser hands, and creates possibilities that will make readers reflect on their world, and how it can very much become Skye's world.
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.
Donna Freitas introduces us to Skye, who lives in a world that's divided in two. Half of the world lives in the real world, with many real worlders choosing to care for those who are plugged into the digital world.
(The digital world is basically a version of the world shown in The Matrix, except those living in the world actually know that their surroundings are digitally rendered.)
Skye was sent to the digital world where she was younger, in the hopes of a better life. However, she feels guilt over leaving her mom and her sister behind, and can't wait until she gets the opportunity to unplug and serve time in the real world. However, inter-world politics interfere, and Skye is forced to pursue other options to unplug and get into the real world...
So when I first started reading Unplugged, I was impressed at how fresh the book felt. I've read many a dystopian novel since The Hunger Games, but it's been awhile since I've been drawn into a dystopian world the way that I was drawn into Skye's.
And I think part of the reason for that, is because Freitas approaches the story from the understanding that a utopian world - a.k.a. the digital world that Skye lives - actually can't exist. Perfection is exhausting and ring false, and it's easy to want something that feels genuine. Readers see hints of it when Skye's foster family talks about wanting real food, and the truth of that feeling only increases when the border between real and digital world closes.
Skye's struggles with deciding if she wants to illegally travel to the real world is compelling, bringing her into contact with people and agendas that hint at a far more chaotic (and fascinating) reality. It's set against the backdrop of a digital world that's desperate to retain its perfect, and there's a reveal involving that "cure" which is actually shocked me a little, and left me a little heartbroken.
Where the book faltered though, was in the real world. Though I was eagerly anticipating to see what kind of reality Skye would end up in, Freitas's vision didn't exactly pan out. There wasn't really the sense of urgency that was stressed earlier in the novel; instead, we ended up with the setting that felt somewhat normal, albeit with elements of a human-rights tale.
Also, the real world sent the characterizations of several key characters into a tailspin, which the book didn't necessarily recover from. Skye's relationships with several key characters felt flimsy, with one of them becoming the type of cookie-cutter villain that has been seen in other books before. Skye also became the most special girl ever, which felt just a tad too stereotypical.
However. With that being said, I absolutely believe that the first two-thirds of the book absolutely makes up for the weaker third half. Even though Skye's presence in the real world isn't as strong as it could be, Freitas has set up political intrigue, an intriguing back story, and a potentially dangerous future re: the plugs, which will absolutely entice readers into coming back for more.
Readers can't help but feel for Skye, as she journeys from a world where her life has essentially been decided for her, to a world where there are a multitude of unknowns. Though the final third of the book felt a tiny bit paint-by-numbers dystopian, Freitas's earlier set-up and foundation makes it absolutely worthwhile to visit Skye and her journey, again and again.
Will definitely be back for the next book. Strongly recommend for fans of dystopian, sci-fi, and those who (obviously) like the film, The Matrix.