Possession by Elana Johnson, Simon & Schuster. Young Adult dystopian fantasy. 414 pages.
Release date: 6/7/11
Source: ARC from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab - given in return for a fair review.
Vi lives a world where people are divided into Goodies and Baddies. Goodies have rules: there is no touching, all skin must be covered up, hats must be worn, and you must plug into thought control recordings every night. Marriages (matches) are arranged and your job is decided for you. Vi is determined to think for herself and soon finds herself in trouble, sent to jail to share a cell with the attractive Jag, then banished to the Badlands.
Vi quickly becomes torn between Zenn, her match, friend and confidant for the last five years, and Jag, a Baddie who is egotistical and dangerous. Vi wants to save both of them, and herself, in a vicious game of control or be controlled by the Thinkers.
The concept of the book was intriguing to me - a dystopian future where certain people, Thinkers, attempt to control everyone, purportedly for their own good. The Thinkers stop the environmental waste, homelessness, terrorism, and other problems in human society. The price for this is complete compliance and a surrendering of free will. Unless people are controlled, their selfish motives overrule the common good. These are the Goodies. There is an interesting philosophical dilemma here: do people need to be forced to do good?
The Baddies live free but are constantly fighting against the Thinkers. However, other than their conflict with the Thinkers, life as a Baddie seems quite good as they are not portrayed as having huge social problems. Most of the social problems presented are in the past.
There is also an examination of different kinds of love and its nature, for example, between parent and child, friends, siblings and romantic love.
Possession is told from Vi's point of view in first person in what is often a chatty and engaging style, but it can sometimes get annoying. Vi is quite sarcastic and says "yeah" a lot and this gets tedious rather quickly. We are also in her head quite a bit as she spends most of her time with Jag so doesn't have a lot of other characters to interact with.
While reading, I found I wanted the world of the book to be more richly created. The pacing was good in places but slow or repetitive in other places. Sometimes I felt the story was going in circles. There is a complicated love triangle, for those who like romance. For me, the most interesting parts were the explorations of human nature. As you can probably tell, this book did not win me over, though others are giving it rave reviews. It looks like one of those books where you have to make up your own mind.
I have heard (but could be wrong) that Possession is the first in a series.