Taken

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Title: Taken
Author: Erin Bowman
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
Pages: 360
Genre: Dystopian
Source: Library
Rating: 5/5

There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

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Holy freaking crap. I am so taken with this book it’s not even funny, it’s punny! (Two puns + one sentence = win) I was absolutely blown away by Erin Bowman’s debut, and I’m honestly not sure if I can make it until April for the sequel. Seriously, it was that good.

Like many other YA readers/bloggers, I’ve been feeling really frustrated with the lack of originality in the dystopian genre. They all seem to follow similar plotlines (discovery–>revolution–>new world order) and have similar characters telling the stories in unoriginal worlds. Thus far, Taken has none of these issues. I was hooked by Bowman’s electric writing from page one and was sucked into Gray’s intriguing world right away. The unique gender and relationship dynamics explored in this novel made it stand out to me. Dystopians rarely discuss changes in gender balance/dynamics or sexuality over time, and since that’s something I’m really interested in, it made this debut even more compulsively readable.

In terms of characters, Gray is definitely not your average dystopian narrator. First of all, he’s male, and secondly and more importantly, he is not actually a particularly likeable character. He’s impulsive, rash, and kind of a jerk, but I think that all comes from his insecurities regarding his place in the world. He wants things he shouldn’t, like to be able to be with one person for the rest of his life, and I think that makes him feel uncomfortable within himself and in his relationship with Emma.

Gray does a lot of stupid things throughout the story, not the least of which is (SPOILER ALERT) leaving Emma in Taem. Admittedly, it seemed as though he felt bad about it later, but oh my god did I want to smack him when he did that. And then he got all pissy with Emma about Craw even though he had been having feelings for Bree, who I also wanted to smack. I usually don’t wish death on characters, but please, please for the love of all things, Erin Bowman, kill of Bree for me. I can’t stand her. I’m glad that at least she knows Gray is still conflicted about his feelings for Emma when they start getting involved, and thus doesn’t want them to have sex, because otherwise I’d really dislike her. On that note, one of Gray’s slightly redeeming moments is when he admits he’s relieved Bree says no because he knows if he and Bree have sex he won’t be able to repair things to Emma. But really, OH MY GOD GRAY. EMMA THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD AND WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO HER IS A MILLION TIMES WORSE THAN WHAT SHE DID TO YOU. I mean, just…damn. He’s really a douchebag sometimes. I’m still rooting for Gremma though. They’re so much better than Gree.

Speaking of the romance, love triangle between two girls and a guy? So much yes! I am not a love triangle hater, but it was nice to see a twist on an old gimmick. I also thought it was kind of funny how both girls started out hating Gray before coming to have feelings for him. I do enjoy love/hate relationships in YA, and the fact that there were two in this book made me swoon a bit, but also made me laugh at Gray for being such a jerk.

Even though I loved this book, I do understand some of the more negative reviews I’ve read. Taken is mostly being criticized for being somewhat predictable and having an unlikeable protagonist, but neither of these things diminished my love of it. I will admit that there were some predictable moments in Taken, but overalll the book was so unique from other dystopians that I’ve read that it didn’t make an impact on how I felt about the story. And in terms of Gray, you’ve probably already guessed that his unlikeability actually made me like him more. He wasn’t cookie-cutter or one of the unrealistically perfect guys YA is littered with. He was complicated and sometimes not very nice, but he was genuine and felt real to me, giving him a pretty high rating on my scale of swoon.

Taken has taken up residence on my favorite debuts of 2013 list along with other great reads including Splintered, Eleanor & Park, and Pretty Girl-13. This book was a big surprise for me, and I love when an author can stun me and sweep me off my feet like Erin Bowman did. Now all I can do is wait for April 2014 and try to soothe my Taken withdrawal. Any ideas? I don’t know if I can do it! It was just so good, and now I have to wait and…

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Erin Bowman, you have killed me.

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