E-galley received from Netgalley for review
I was excited to receive Swipe by Evan Angler for review from Netgalley. I was expecting a young adult novel, but I'd say this is more middle grade. It's very good, though, and although it is the first one in a series (again!), the sequel comes out in September and galleys for that are already out.
Swipe is set in a future version of North America struggling to recover from famine, illness, and Total War, which wiped out most of the population. The former nations of the United States, Canada, and Mexico have been unified in the American Union, led by a charismatic leader. At thirteen, every citizen is required to Pledge their allegiance to the nation by getting their Mark, which grants them the benefits of citizenship. A Mark is a special tattoo which needs to be swiped by special scanners and which is necessary to use public transport, buy in shops, get a job, vote, and so on. The Markless, people who don't get the Mark, are forced to live in poverty as second-class citizens.
Logan Langly is about to turn thirteen. He knows he should be excited about getting his Mark, like all kids his age. But he's very nervous about it. Five years ago, his older sister Lily went to get her Mark and never returned. She was reported as a casualty of the system. Ever since, Logan has felt like he's being watched. Everyone considers him paranoid, until he meets Erin Arbitor, the new girl, who came to town with her father for him to do mysterious "government work".
When Logan tells Erin he's being followed, she connects his story to what she read in her father's classified files. She suspects Logan has been targeted by the Dust, a group of Markless rebels led by a murderer named Peck. Logan and Erin discover that the Dust also plans to kidnap other teenagers just before they get the Mark. Who should Logan trust?
This is a very action-packed novel. It's a ride full of adventure and discovery, and romance plays a very little role, unlike many other dystopian novels in which the romantic element is more important. I liked the character of Erin best - she's smart, brave, and determined. Well, she does something I don't like at the end, but that's because she believes strongly in her ideas.
The most interesting feature of the novel was probably the world building. After war and famine, the world seems very close to peace and global unity, as the leaders of the American Union and the European Union are about to bring their nations together. The Mark is their project for citizens to pledge their allegiance to the state. I do wonder, what about Asia, Africa, and Australia? I can't see them all included in the European Union. Has population been completely wiped out from there? Have they become "colonies" of little importance in the grand scheme of things? We are not told, but I hope we'll learn something about them in future books.
Society is very advanced from a technological point of view. Houses are built vertically to save space - for instance, Logan's house has only one room on each floor and an elevator is used to go from one room to another; the school is built underground, and the hallway walls project different natural scenery. Logan and his friends are only in eight grade, but they learn very advanced stuff, like how to be programmers and how to do complicated biology experiments.
A couple things I found difficult to believe. One minor thing is Erin's ability as a hacker. Of course, she's very good at it, but some things just are not possible. I find it very hard to believe that from her tablet she could repair surveillance cameras set in a different neighbourhood. More importantly, I'm perplexed at how there seem to be no rebels in this society, except for the Dust. Yes, the Markless choose not to conform to the demands of the Mark, which would make them traceable, I guess. But in making that decision, they are practically excluded from public life and become little more than beggars. How come there are so few kids who "flunk" their Pledge? Are they all so oboedient and well-adjusted?
All in all, a very enjoyable novel for teens. It is probably a good book for boys and the so-called "reluctant readers", too.Cover attraction:
I find it quite effective, plus you can see the Mark. Job well done!