Monday, December 17, 2012


by J. A. Souders
Read: December 11 - 14, 2012
Published: November 13, 2012 by Tor Teen
Source: Library book
Category: Dystopian, Psychological Thriller, YA
Series: The Elysium Chronicles book 1

Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie. 

Her memories have been altered. 

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control. 

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all. (From Goodreads)


My Life is just about perfect. 

Evelyn (or Evie) lives in an underwater city called Elysium. Located deep within the ocean, the community was created to escape the violence on the Surface. The leader of the people is Mother, and Evie is Daughter of the People, chosen because of her exceptional genes. The residents of Elysium are distrustful of the Surface above, and Mother is not happy when a Surface Dweller named Gavin finds his way into her city. Tasked with getting information out of him, Evie learns instead that everything she knows is a lie and that it is Mother whom she should have feared all along. 

The underwater setting of Elysium fascinated me. I've never read a book that takes place on the ocean floor but does not involve mermaids or submarines. I loved the uniqueness of the setting, as well as how well it was crafted. If not for Mother, I'd want to live there myself (or at least visit). I was not surprised that Gavin kept getting distracted by the wonder of his new surroundings. It is clear that the author also thought through practical problems of dwelling in the ocean, including how would you get a sustainable community to live on the ocean floor?  

I also loved the tone of Renegade. The beautiful, almost peaceful setting added to the creepiness of the story. The author also used repetition to demonstrate the ways that Evie's mind has been manipulated by Mother. Even the careful front that Mother portrays to the world, and the way the citizens refer to her as Mother creeped me out. I could physically feel the tension building as these characters fought to stay one step ahead of her. As the story builds, Evie's carefully constructed world unravels more and more until there was nothing left of her "just about perfect" life. 

A love story develops between Evie and Gavin, the "Surface Dweller" who finds his way into the community of Elysium. While I grew to really like Gavin, there was absolutely no buildup in his relationship with Evie, which left me feeling uneasy and scrambling to catch up to how they felt about each other. Evie trusted Gavin almost immediately, although there was really no reason that she should have. I wish there had been more tension between Evie and Gavin as they got to know each other. Instead this was a bad case of insta-love combined with insta-trust that did not work for me (I actually don't mind insta-love if it handled well). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get over my unease over their quickly developing relationship as fast as I would have liked and that really affected my reading of this book. 

That said, Gavin and Evie as a couple did grow on me. I ended up liking them together by the end of the book, and I'm looking forward to more of them in the future. Their relationship does become more complicated and thus more interesting about 65% of the way through this novel, and I really liked that development. At that point there is a big revelation, which surprisingly, did surprise me - although I should have seen it coming.  I became more interested in Evie at this point as well. 

Renegade takes place over a few days and the majority of the story is about Evie and Gavin trying to stay one step ahead of Mother and escape from her with their lives intact. Along the way they learn what is really going on in Elysium in more and more frightening detail. This book is essentially a psychological thriller set in a dystopian world. I really like the idea of this combination of genres, but the Escape Plot in this book made me feel restless at times. Evie and Gavin encounter constant set backs, and I became frustrated with the slow progress of their journey. I got tired of "we made it to this place, but now we have to backtrack in the complete opposite direction to do this important thing before we go any further." I don't think this would have been a problem for me if I had been more invested in their relationship. But I think my uneasy feelings about them together bled over into how I felt about the plot. 

Despite my issues with Renegade, I'm really glad that I read this book, and was happy with its resolution. The book also leaves the reader with a lot of questions, and I am looking forward to reading the next installment to find out their answers. We have a lot more to know about Evie and Gavin, and the world in which they live. 

A note on the cover:
I was not impressed with this cover when I first saw it. It seemed like the standard YA-girl-in-a-prom-dress cover had been taken to a new and cheesier level. I kept thinking Bachelorette rose ceremony (oh dear!). BUT I am excited to say that this is cover depicts this novel very well, from the background to the rose in the model's hands. It will all make sense when you read this book. 

Radom connections: 
While I read Renegade, I kept thinking that this author must have loved The Little Mermaid as much as I did as a child. Although this isn't a mermaid book, it takes place under the ocean and these characters - except for our main mermaid girl Ariel Evie - share a fear of all things surface related. I kept singing "Under The Sea" in my head as I read this book. 

Love Triangle Factor: NONE
Cliffhanger Scale: Mild

Rating: 3.5 stars


  1. Exactly! I found Evie and Gavin's romance to be a huge down factor, but I think they won me over by the end too and the rest of the novel worked out really well for me. I'm so glad you still enjoyed it and I love how much thought the author put into the book - it was great! Wonderful review, Lauren! :)

    1. The author definitely thought through this world and the characters. I love that they are unique and intriguing. I also love that at the end, we're still unclear about a lot of things. It makes me really excited for the next one. And I hope that the love story will work itself into something that I love as well.

  2. Yes, with you on all of it! I know I liked this one a little more than you, but I agree with all the points you made. Mother is totally creepy (and psychotic); the repetition as a way to demonstrate all the mind control and head games was brilliant; loved that it blended psychological thrillers aspects with dystopian (and horror, imo); and yes, the insta-trust/ romance was the weakest part of the story. But I am excited to see what happens next after that crazy ending!

    And you know what I think the coolest part of the cover is? Look closely, it's all pretty and flowery in Evie's garden, and the blue ocean outside the window is lovely, but look at all the rusty, dripping, salvage-y looking metal that makes up the window frame. Love the contradiction. Another hint that maybe Elysium isn't as "perfect" as we might think:)

    1. Oooh. I'll have to look at the cover more closely! That IS really cool. I love when you can tell that the cover designer actually read and got the book that they're representing.

  3. Yay! At least you liked it even though not as much as I did. Well, I'm a dystopia junkie anyway so that may have skewed my opinions :P

    I had issues with the lack of build up on Evie-Gavin relationship as well but I was worried if the author allowed for such build up to take place, it would interrupt the pacing of the book. I can't wait for the second installment nonetheless! :)

    1. I can definitely see where the whole beginning would have had to be reworked for their relationship to have developed differently. Still, I think it's something that the author could have worked through, and it would have made this story even BETTER. I did like this one though, it was certainly unique. Though I will also admit to becoming tired of dystopians in general, and that affected my reading a bit.

    2. Another interesting point is that though it is clear that Elysium is a dystopian world, it's not really clear what Gavin's home is like. I can't wait to find that out.

  4. Great review! I am curious about this book because it sounds much more like a legitimate dystopian novel than many other so-called YA dystopian novels. Kind of sounds like 1984 or The Handmaiden's Tale. And I hear you on insta-love and insta-trust. Insta-love can be frustrating by itself, so I can't imagine how much more frustrating it would be when combined with insta-trust. Although I am glad that the issues resolves a little (or at least their relationship develops some) as the story continues.

    I actually think the cover is quite pretty, but I can see how people might think it is cliche at first.

    1. This dystopian world is certainly interesting. It is highly controlled like those books you mentioned, but it also veers into a creepiness and science fiction that set it apart. As Heather said above, it is not only a psychological thriller, but also has horror elements. I hope you enjoy this story!

  5. I've been hearing good things about this book so I'm glad to read another +ve review. It's great that the author actually put some thought into the ocean setting, otherwise it would seem too unbelievable. And like you, I don't like the cover, but I do like knowing that it suits the story!

    1. The setting is definitely one of my favorite parts of this book. And the cover has grown on me little by little!

  6. I read about this book recently on Heather's blog and I have to say that I kind of want to read it, but it is because of how creepy Mother sounds and how warped the community seems in relation to her. I really don't know much about this book other than what you've said and what Heather said, but I am drawn to the creep-factor of Mother and the way she seems to be in control.

    Also I wonder about the insta-trust you mention - it seems from reading your thoughts that there is a trust that the people have with Mother - that peaceful setting, the mind manipulation - I have to wonder if the trust she feels with Gavin is just what Evie KNOWS because of how she has been manipulated or if it is actual insta-trust because of the writing. I don't know if that makes any sense. It just sticks out to me.

    But, yeah, this is something I really want to get to at some point because of the whole Atwood-like it has to me. As I mentioned on Heather's blog, I wonder about myself sometimes, totally being drawn to these creepy books. I love them. This one sounds a little different than the others that are out there right now.

    Great review.

    1. Asheley, I think this is definitely a book that you will like. Mother is very creepy, and her relationship with her people is certainly interesting - and freaky. As I said above, this book not only features dystopian, psychological thriller, and horror elements but also some science fiction. I hope you love it!

      And as for the insta-trust. I think the issue is that Evie has been told over and over - and programed - to fear the Surface and anyone who lives there. So the fact that she immediately trusts Gavin is somewhat confusing. HOWEVER, Evie has a strong mind and her instant trust of him could also be a subconscious rebelling from Mother's control. We don't know everything about Evie yet, and there could be a connection to the surface that we have yet to realized.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...