Book Review: The Rebel Within by Lance Erlick

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Ahhh…another one of my favorite type of books.  A mash-up.  Part dystopian, part romance, part thriller, part scifi and part YA.  I absolutely loved this series.

The author emailed me about reviewing the book, and I am very thankful that he did.  Here is the synopsis from amazon.com:

After the Second American Civil War, the Federal Union pursues a world without men by rounding up the remaining males. A rebellious adopted teen girl must choose between becoming a security cog in the elite military unit that took her parents or being torn from her beloved sister and adoptive mom.

Annabelle is a tomboy who lost her parents at age three and developed a rebellious streak against her conformist society even while serving as a cop intern. She puts herself and her family at risk by helping a boy escape prison. Then, to protect her sister, she fights the amazon Dara. Arrested for disharmony, Annabelle chooses to endure training and qualification tests to enter the elite mech warrior program with Dara rather than re-socialization and exile.

Harassed by the police captain who hates her, the mech commander who demands too much, and the bully Dara, Annabelle struggles through rigorous training. At the same time she’s driven to search for her birth mother and help boys escape the federal roundup. Can Annabelle stand up to Dara, protect a boy she’s grown fond of, and avoid washing out of the mech program while remaining true to herself and protecting her family? The final test: a gladiatorial spectacle of hand-to-hand combat to the death with a male wrestler.

My daughter is named Annabelle (but it is spelled differently), so it was a little disconcerting to read “Annabelle” so often and not think of my munchkin.

But other than the adoption thing and living in a female dominated society, my child has a lot in common with her fictional counterpart.  Her rebellious nature for one, her looks for another.

I truly loved the character.  She is strong, intelligent.  She has a heart.  She knows that her society isn’t the utopia it is portrayed to be.  She has an unquenchable thirst for justice and determination to match.

I loved learning about this “utopia”. I live in the South, and I occasionally run into the misinformed ideals of macho males who think I should be in my kitchen barefoot and pregnant.  So reading about an all-female society was very interesting.

Reading about how this “utopia” came about was even more intruiging, “in the early decades of the 21st century, right-wing extremists tried to turn back the clock.  When they failed, they seceded, bringing the Second American Civil War.”

It ended with women in possession of most of the country, and men forced to live in the “Outlands”, i.e. Appalachia, Tex-SoCal, and in the Rockies.  They in turn live in a backwards society where women are usually chattel, and theocracy is the norm.

Well, that seems plausible.  Especially from my seat down here in Texas.  A state that regulates a woman’s body to “protect life” but promotes gun ownership and kills 300 people per year by lethal injection.  I also think that Texas has more churches per square mile than any other place in the country.  For example, within a mile of my house, there is 10 churches of varying denomination.  And that is not an exaggeration.

But I digress.  For as good as “the Union” seems, all “utopia” type societies always have a nasty underbelly.  This one treats males as third class citizens.  Any males that they do encounter are jailed (including children that are sent to “schools” that are fenced in like a prison) and are forced to wear a shock collar.

Annabelle starts helping boys escape.  And then a turn of events forces her into the military.

The gadgets and tactics used for training were fascinating.  I loved the idea of the simulators. However, like “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, reading about the training and about young teenage girls nearly killing each other was disturbing.

Even more “Hunger Games”-esque was the final test for those intending to serve in the mech forces:  a fight to the death in an arena against a male who is hopped up on steroids.  It is televised, along with a tournament among the mech recruit classes, and gambling is permitted on the participants.

I admire Annabelle’s hard work and grit in doing what she feels is right for her family, despite being totally against the organization she is training for.

I loved reading about her relationship with her adopted sister and mother.  The urge for Annabelle to protect Janine is palpable.

I was also sent the second book, Rebels Divided, by the author and jumped right in.  Look for the review for that book tomorrow.

Overall, this is a wonderful book with strong characters, strong statements on politics and life in the United States, with twists of love, empathy and compassion.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Book Review: The Rebel Within | The Eclectic Bookworm
  2. Trackback: Amanda’s Favs for 2013 — Part One | The Eclectic Bookworm
  3. Trackback: Book Review: Women’s Work by Kari Aguila | The Eclectic Bookworm

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