4 out of 4 stars
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Tick by Allison Rose is her debut young adult novel in the sub-genre dystopian fiction, and is the first in a trilogy. The story unfolds to reveal a truly spectacular look at what the United States future might become if run by corporations instead of government. Rose poses moral and ethical dilemmas within the context of this futuristic society.
The novel introduces a futuristic world through the main character Josephine Bristol. The United States government is a shell of its former self; a direct result of budget cuts and funding shortages. FutureTech Corporation has taken over almost everything the government used to control. For example, police, mental health facilities, prisons, schools, roads and zoning. High school is little more than a trade school that allows no access to college education. The only way to be eligible for college is through the PEAD home school program (Programmed Education, and Development). The rift between social economic statuses is larger than ever; there is no more middle class. People that live in the poor areas need special passes to visit the wealthy zones. FutureTech uses drones with brain scanning technology to find abnormalities and cyber terrorist sympathizers.
The standard of mental health has changed. Brain adjusting is the standard practice, not talk therapy or medication. People that undergo brain adjustment are called botheads and seem to be incapable of anything more than happy complacency. A cyber terrorist group called Alias-X is constantly trying to break into FutureTech’s security system. Their goal is unclear, but they have FutureTech worried enough to send brain scanning Drones out into schools, the streets and wherever Alias-X sympathizers can be found.
Josephine Bristol is a sixteen year old tomboy that goes by the name Jo. She is dealing with the tragic suicide of her father, an emotionally unavailable mother, and the dream crushing reality that she is no longer in the PEAD program. Jo is worried that her brain is abnormal and fears being scanned by a drone. Jo is plagued by violent visions of killing with military precision and resourcefulness. She calls these visions her tick. She does not want undergo a brain adjustment. Jo is a talented artist and feels that if her brain is adjusted, she will lose the essential part of herself that makes her art special.
Rose does a wonderful job bringing attention to numerous themes that elevate the novel’s complexity. Major themes are mental health, discovering sexuality, civil rights violations, corporate run government, stratified economic class system, thought crime, and abuse of technology. Jo discovers the first tingles of sexual attraction with her best friend Lyle, another PEAD teen. Jo is a late bloomer and reading her reactions to new feelings is endearing and interesting.
The characters in the book are all complex and well thought out. Jo is extremely intelligent, insightful, funny, clever, and pragmatic. Her inner monologue and observations help introduce the world she lives in. Every new situation Jo deals with is revealed organically and explained through context. The pacing of the book is a work of art; the tension ebbs and flows at just the right times. Language has evolved, creating new slang and names for everyday technology. The dialog is realistic and gives each character a unique voice.
The world Rose forms is realistic and smart. Rose does an incredible job making a rich world that could be the future if divisive politics and private corporate contracts continue to gain ground. Technology has evolved intuitively and is close to what is currently being experimented on. There are electric cars that drive themselves, facial recognition software as home security, online learning, drones used to police citizens, and cyber terrorism. The novel is a great example of dystopian societies being social commentary of our current systemic issues.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The novel is well written and excellently paced. The story unfolds naturally, with great attention to detail and unexpected twists. The characters are constantly developing and changing. Jo is likeable main character with a lot of heart. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy dystopian novels, science fiction, and strong female characters.
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