The Cage by Megan Shepherd
Book One of The Cage series
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman's Daughter trilogy.
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—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—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.
As 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?
What I Liked:
As I'm writing this review, I'm struggling to decide if I liked this book or not. It should be easy, right? To figure out if you (overall) felt positively towards a book, or negatively. I have no idea. I feel like I liked the science fiction, but could not connect with some of the characters, so I'm stuck. I have no idea how this review is going to go, so bear with me!
Cora and five other humans have been taken from their homes and plopped in a mysterious and unknown place. All of them wake up separately and have no idea how they got here or where they are. As they slowly find each other, they realize that they are in some sort of artificial environment - a cage. And one of the six of them is dead, though the five don't know how. They find out that they are being held by an advanced species that is not human. The Caretaker, Cassian, tells them the rules - live happily in this establishment, cooperate, and... procreate, by the end of twenty-one days. Cora refuses to believe that this is their new home - can she find a way out, without the help of the others?
We get to read from the perspectives of all five of the teenagers - Rolf, Nok, Cora, Lucky, and Leon. The sixth person (and third girl) is dead, from the beginning of the story. Each perspective is told in third person, which I actually really like. Too much first person in YA these days. I didn't like any of the teens' perspectives, to be honest (which is the biggest problem I had), but I kept reading.
I was intrigued from the start. To be honest, I didn't realize that this book is science fiction! I thought it was a medical thriller or something. But the cage is run by aliens, an advanced species that somewhat looks like humans - though not really. They're huge, with no irises or pupils, and mind powers. Like a sort of mind reading, for one. More like emotional reading, but you get what I'm saying. Cassian - the Caretaker - can feel exactly what the humans are feeling at all times, as can the other Mosca (I think that's what they're called? If I remember correctly).
The aliens want the humans to live in this establishment, peacefully and cooperatively, and procreate. Each one of them has been paired off - Cora and Lucky, Nok and Rolf, Leon and the dead girl (she wasn't supposed to die). Nok and Rolf hit it off pretty quickly. Leon is aggressive and doesn't get along with the group. Lucky actually knew Cora from before... there is a really dark past between them, though Cora has no idea. Lucky falls for Cora quickly, but Cora refuses to believe that that is what they are expected to do. She likes Lucky, but she doesn't want to love him or have sex with him (me either, no matter how cute he is. The situation is WEIRD).
I don't think I liked Cora, or any of the humans, to be honest. Maybe Mali, the replacement for Girl 3. I don't know if I liked Cassian, though he was interesting. He was very static, not a developing character, and he seemed flat to me. But I see why Shepherd has him as a leader type AND a love interest. Meh.
The romance - there's a love triangle brewing. Lucky is in love with Cora, though Cora does not seem to really have feelings for him. She DOES have feelings for Cassian (and vice versa, but he's their Caretaker... she wants to be as far from this place as possible. So I'm not sure how the romance will go.
Overall, I think the science fiction and the STORY were good... ish. The characters and I didn't really agree. But I'm interested in seeing where this series is going. It's a trilogy, which I find strange - how in the world is Shepherd going to stretch out this one?
What I Did Not Like:
Like I've been saying, I didn't really connect with any of the characters. I didn't like Cora. I get it, you don't want to stay in this freakish establishment. But I feel like she wasn't always rational. But then, I also understand that, because I don't know how rational I would be under the circumstances. Still, there was something that I really didn't like about Cora.
I definitely didn't like Nok or Rolf from the beginning. Both of them are odd characters from the start, and they evolve into sleazy people. Jeez, I wanted to punch both of them. Leon, not so much. I felt bad for him, more than anything else.
I wish Cassian were more of a three-dimensional person to me. He seemed one-dimensional and flat, and I feel like he had the potential to be a quietly villainous hero. I love forbidden romance between the villain and the female protagonist - but I feel like Cassian was too flat of a "villain", and a character in general.
The story progression is weird. We get a lot of information dumping about Cora's past and Lucky's past throughout the book, and to be honest, I skipped most of that. It didn't feel necessary, and it probably wasn't. I'm not sure what it was doing for the story or for the character development, but it wasn't doing anything for me.
The fighting and bickering REALLY detracted from the story. There is a point, not even halfway through the book, when everyone starts getting mad at Cora for no reason, and the fighting and verbal fighting gets ridiculous. I'm sure it's authentic (or maybe not, who knows) but I didn't like it. It REALLY made me mad, and I felt a lot of resentment towards certain characters and irritation towards the story. This goes on for most of the book. Ugh!
The ending is strange. It's predictable, down to the last page, for me. I'm curious as to how Shepherd is going to make this series a trilogy - I feel like it would be a good duology. Also I have a tooooon of questions, so I hope those will be answered in the next book(s).
Would I Recommend It:
2.5 stars -> I guess I'm rounding up to 3 stars? 2.5 stars is a perfect rating for this book, but Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble don't do half-star ratings. Ugh! 3 stars it is. What a struggle.
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