Series: The Cage #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 26th 2015
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
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When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle—and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures and time periods, all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.
Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer appears—a handsome young guard called Cassian—they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their abductors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers to an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.
When a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?
While this was an easy read unfortunately this book was a bit of a disappointment for me. The very idea of humans being caged by aliens in a zoo like environment to be watched and researched I found fascinating and terrifying but unfortunately the majority of this book read more like a teen melodrama, and not a very good one at that. My opening sounds harsh and I will note that there there were parts of this book that I very much liked and Megan Shepherd has a beautiful and easy to read writing style. While I was disappointed this in no way means that other readers wont like it – I just had very high hopes going into this one and it sadly just didn’t play out quite as I expected. And with that ramble I will now get onto the review!
The story opens with our protagonist Cora waking up in an unknown environment. She has no idea where she is or how she got there. She soon runs into 5 other teenagers and they realise that they have been trapped or “caged” into this strange world – a jumble of different environments all seamlessly next to each other. They are shortly introduced to an alien called Cassian who tells them their alien race is here to “help” humans and that they are expected to: Keep their body fit and healthy, decode puzzles strategically placed in their world for rewards and to keep their minds sharp and to procreate. Somewhere around hearing this enforced mandate to have sex I felt things perhaps began to unravel.
While the story is well written and paced I felt that so much of it was just forgettable. I also felt that I often didn’t agree with how one of the teens reacted to something and that much of the tension and violence was manipulated because the author needed it in the story, not because the characters would actually act that way. It’s sort of excused I guess my many references to headaches and interference by the aliens but I still am sceptical. At the beginning of the story the group all works together and agrees that they need to escape. Within about 48 hours somehow the others seem to believe that Cora is crazy and are all keen on staying. Now I’m not saying that human psychology wouldn’t end up enjoying captivity or the rewarding and comfort given in this scenario, I just can’t imagine how they could change their though process so quickly, especially Rolf who is written as an incredibly brilliant and intelligent mind. This was the fundamental downfall of this novel – the speed at which the characters were willing to turn on one another and blindly accept the information given to them by their captors are true and infallible.
The romance of this story I also really struggled with. There is a love triangle between Cora, her allocated mate – Lucky and their alien jailer, Cassian. Cassian is an alien and he’s clearly obsessed with Cora but there is just no spark, nothing between them. I can’t see it and to be honest it kinda creeped me out the same way a book written with a love triangle with an animal would creep me out – I guess what can I say, I’m not into cross species love! I liked Lucky for the most part and I actually did see spark between him and Cora but you can already tell that this trilogy is not set up in a way that will have Lucky and Cora end up together and that’s just plain sad.
Finally the escape from the zoo is just a bit too far fetched, I couldn’t find it believable and while I normally can suspend my imagination enough to still enjoy these far fetched action sequences towards victory I don’t think I was invested enough in this story to really get through it.
At this stage I haven’t decided if I will give the second book a go, possibly I will as I am interested to see how a couple of the plot points that I actually liked (and sadly haven’t mentioned as I don’t want to spoil any of the reveals) turn out. Overall I am definitely placing this book in the average category which is a real shame – the idea had so much potential!