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Book Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

So, sometimes I’ll buy random books. I don’t read the reviews. I just read the blurbs on them and buy them. I also sometimes compulsively buy books that I don’t need. Because books make me happy. Sue me.

Most of the time, I am pleasantly surprised by these random purchases. Sometimes, I am not.

This was one of those times. (I feel like I need the Law & Order dun-dun right here. ;))

Several years back, a friend of mine turned me on to the MATCHED series by Ally Condie (LOVE LOVE LOVE!!). This was when dystopian novels were at their peak. What’s a dystopian? Think HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, or THE GIVER. Dystopian novels are set in our world, but after some sort of apocalypse turns the world upside down. This differs from a post-apocalyptic because there is a new structure in place, new society, after the world has gone to hell.  At least, that’s my definition of it. Genres can vary based on the person.

So, MATCHED was pretty much my favorite dystopian novel. The new society was one of control, where the officials chose what job you did, what activities you could participate in, but, most importantly, who you ended up with. They matched you with someone in society, most of the time it was someone from another area. Rarely was it someone from your own sector.

POSSESSION set up similar to that, based on the description of the book:

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself. But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous–everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn. This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Literally, the summary on the back explains the first….two…? chapters.

I had high hopes for this story. I read a lot of good dystopians. The fact that this one has five books, I thought okay, it must be good, right? Meh.

In general, it felt like I was walking through this world blind. The main character had such a narrow viewpoint, it was hard to piece together what things looked like or felt like or…really anything if we’re being honest. She starts out madly (sarcasm) in love with the guy she’s been matched with, Zenn. Then all of five minutes later, she’s madly in love with Jag. Even though they’ve just met. Even though we don’t know a dang thing about him. Even though all he’s basically done is insult her.

They’re locked up in jail together. For some reason the smarties in this world thought, with all of these empty cells, to put she in a jail cell with Jag. Someone asked “Aren’t you two working together yet?” Which I feel was never fully explained. Why would these people, if they’re the baddies, care if the two of them were working together? I had no clue what was going on. Not really, anyway.

The story is a Young Adult. Okay, I understand. A bunch of teenagers. Cool. Raging angst, tumultuous emotions, Daddy issues. Got it. I read a lot of Young Adult. I prefer YA to Adult sometimes because of the themes.

These characters acted like they were twelve. Vi and Jag broke out of jail and made their way from the “Goodlands” toward the “Badlands”. He “abandoned her” (oh, it was this big ordeal about how she trusted him and he just left.) My commentary: Sweetie, you just met him, you cannot expect for him to think you’re this be all, end all of relationships. It is not his job to protect you. And if you’re going to call him names, why the hell would he want to be around you?

It read like a Middle Grade novel trying really hard to be Young Adult. As a writer, I ask myself…how did this person get this published?

Don’t get me wrong. Please, understand my criticism is because I had higher expectations of this story. It started off with great promise. But it really read like it was the first draft of a novel. So many things weren’t fledged out. Characters were only half-developed. I wish I could have beta read this for the author and given feedback, solely because it feels so unfinished. It has the bones there to be something really good, but the execution was so not good.

There were plot twists, things that I really liked, but they weren’t explained. They weren’t fully explored. Those are things people need to have in a first novel if you’re hoping they’ll read on to the second (and on and on and on). For 99% of the book, I felt like I had a blindfold on and someone would pull it up for small glimpses of the story. Then, all of a sudden, the character had powers. Could see into people’s dreams. Could control Tech. Control others’ minds. What? How? Who? I don’t understand. More back story, more explanation would have cleared this up.

Out of all of the books I’ve read this year (37, according to goodreads. :D), this has been my least favorite. I literally set the book down when I finished and said, ‘Well, that was dumb.’

It’s easy to be a reader and pick apart someone’s work when you don’t know them, have never met them, will never meet them. I always try my best to appreciate a writer’s hard work. Especially because they’re published and I’m not. Obviously someone saw the potential in this writer to sign them and help them get published. But I just didn’t see it. I don’t understand how this could have been published with still being so unfinished.

This is the importance of writing several drafts. First draft, bones. Second draft, improvements. Third draft, beta readers. Or whatever works. But at least draft and draft and draft until you feel like you can’t draft anymore. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing this series anytime soon, and if I do, I’ll probably  borrow the books from the library.

Would I recommend this book? Sorry. Nope. If you’re looking for a dystopian about a society that tries to control you, and has real, heartfelt relationships between Young Adults? MATCHED. Read it. 🙂

Thanks for checking out my review. I’ll have one for the A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES/MISTS AND FURY/WINGS AND RUIN next time.




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