Series: Glimpse #1
Published by Faber & Faber on June 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult
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In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.
Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears.
Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not interfere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society, and as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper’s abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe.
This is the story of Ana who lives in the not to distant future where scientists and governments test for mental illnesses from birth and then segregates society into the “pures” who live in idyllic gated communities and the “crazies” everyone else who has predictors for mental illness, ranging from mild illnesses to the big three – depression, schizophrenia and anxiety. As you can quite safely assume the majority of the population is viewed as unpure and so are left to their own devices in major cities with the worst citizens locked up in various mental institutions that have opened up to “assist” these individuals.
Ana is born a pure with her father being the scientist who created the test to establish what mental illnesses a person has from birth. During her teenage years it is discovered that Ana’s tests were done incorrectly and she does infact test positive for the big 3 meaning that she is outcast within her society and the government continually tests her to make sure that her mental health is stable. Providing she marries Jasper her childhood crush before her 18th birthday she is allowed to stay in the Pure community otherwise she has to go to the city to live. Shortly before her birthday Jasper disappears leading her to investigate and uncover some very hard truths about the world which she has grown up in.
Let me just start off by staying what a fantastic and completely scary dystopian novel! I had read a few negative reviews about this book prior to requesting it via Netgalley – many were very offended about the authors take and description of mental illness. This outcry made me curious and I can safely say that while I have had experience with major depression (not personally, my mum suffered from it for most of my life) I didn’t take offense at any point during the novel and infact I thought that it was a smart way to bring up real life issues to teens and young adults. I think what I love about the Dystopia genre so much is the ability to see where different avenues life, governments and politics can take you and explore safely how this could affect humanity – by safe I mean it’s fairly clear to the reader that this isn’t going to happen in their lifetime so it’s a purely theoretical exercise of the imagination.
Ana’s story starts off a bit slowly and I have to admit that I didn’t really get into either her or the actual plot of the book until I was about a quarter of the way through. Once I got over that speed bump though boy was this a thrilling ride. The plots are actually quite complex yet really well managed for a book that isn’t that long clocking in at just 432 pages. Aside from the standard dystopian ideas of controlling governments and conspiracies there is the extra thought provoking topics of mental illness and spirituality added in for the reader to mull over. I really enjoyed the actual theory of “the glimpse” as well and will be interested to see if there are more of these in the final book.
The characters are fairly stock standard however in saying that they are well rounded and I still enjoyed reading about them. By the end of the novel Ana really shows some backbone and I really enjoyed the layers and complexity of the relationship she has with her father in this novel. Jasper was probably the weakest link and I felt that some of his backstory was probably cut and edited out as not relevant which is a pity because I really felt that there was more to him than what the book gives him credit for. Cole was a fantastic character and love interest, I loved him he was so patient and kind even though he had been through such a hellish life.
There are some really confronting scenarios placed in this novel including suicidal toddlers and criminal abuse and negligence of mental patients. I found this very chilling and sometimes a little full on though it completely worked and added substance to this novel and was in context with the world building beautifully crafted by Merle. I think that this is a wonderful read for anyone who is willing to see this purely as a work of fiction or a theoretical exercise into the “what ifs” of a potential future. Perhaps give this one a miss if mental illness is a button pusher for you!
– Confronting but fascinating read