Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PITY ISN'T AN OPTION by Jessica Brooks

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I am just... moved. Touched. Changed. Which is exactly what Afterglow Book Reviews is here for, to give us a chance to share these book-induced feelings with the world. There's something different about Jessica Brooks' debut novel, Pity Isn't An Option. It's more contemplative than I'm used to, and the writing is just gorgeous. It doesn't gimmick or formulate. It just goes. It just journeys. That's how I feel, like I just went on a journey that changed me.

Have you ever been on an adventure like that in real life? When I was a kid I went on a hike with my family and some friends. It was horrible and wonderful. Our friends got motion sick in the car on the way there. We hiked too slowly. The sun blazed overhead. We ran out of water at the halfway point and still had a long way to get back to the cars. The mother of the other family collapsed with heat exhaustion. We prayed. We walked along a dry riverbed looking for water. And we prayed. And we sucked on Juniper berries. Did I mention we prayed? When we discovered water, we went crazy, jumping all over in it, soaking our hot skin and our clothes, drinking it where it ran down the rocks. Best day of my childhood. I don't even remember the hike back. Just that incredible moment when our prayers were answered and we could fill out canteens for our friends waiting up the trail. One day, one simple adventure. Life defining.

That's how it feels to read PITY ISN'T AN OPTION.

It's the first of a series. The author classifies it as YA contemporary with dystopian elements. I'd classify it as near-future YA dystopian. It's a five-years-down-the-road-if-the-economy-keeps-going-downhill-and-our-political-system-gets-even-more-corrupt kind of thing. President Kendrick refuses to relinquish the presidency, and he's forcibly conscripting a civilian army for some unknown purpose. All the citizens know is that when their fathers and sons are taken, they are never heard from again. The Union holds meetings and talks about fighting back, but everyone is scared and nothing ever really happens. Hattie and Jonas experience a day-to-day tension that finally reaches a boiling point and forces them to action. The pace of this novel is slow suspense in the beginning and gets super intense at about the 60% mark. By that point, I felt a bond with the characters that wouldn't let me go. Wanless, their town, just feels all too real. (It doesn't help that I just read the part in Gone with the Wind when the land around Tara is desolated.)

The theme of the book (from my perspective) is Luke 12:27 "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

Dark, yet marbled through with streaks of hope, PITY ISN'T AN OPTION reminds us we're not in control of anything except our own choices. And Jonas and Hattie do not disappoint on that score.


The blog tour for PIAO has ended, but you can still read excerpts and get to know the author:

Le Blog Tour Stops
Full disclosure, Jessica Brooks is one of our reviewers.

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