Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Book Review - Middle Ground

Middle Ground
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Series: Awaken #2
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian | Young Adult
Release Date: 13th November 2013
Publishers: HMH Books
No. Pages: 336
Source: Purchased
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
For four weeks Maddie has been living in Los Angeles, trying to be good. But no matter how hard she tries, something inside her won't be sated. She can't live a life of half-truths and false pretenses. So one night, she says how she really feels..

That's all it takes. One night. One bad decision, and Maddie is thrown into a detention center where she's forced to undergo secretive treatment meant to squash her rebellious streak. The powers that be call it rehabilitation. Maddie calls it torture.

Alone, Maddie will not survive. But if she can find something to hold on to - an image of Justin, their love - maybe she can fight. And if she's really lucky, maybe she'll even win.

The following review may contain spoilers concerning earlier books in the series.
If you have not read the previous installments, please proceed with caution.

It's not uncommon knowledge that I don't read a lot of Dystopians - in fact, I can probably name the dystopian series I've started on hand and it's not that I don't enjoy them, it's that I'm particular and either the world or the characters have to stay with me long after I've finished each book and with Awaken, it was the characters that had that affect on me. Was I excited to read Middle Ground? Yes, but why on earth it took me a whole seven months to actually get around to it, I'll never know, but with the help of my read-a-thon, Middle Ground was definitely definable by it's title.

Awaken was one of the books I sped my way through Summer '13, it was my first ever dystopian and blew my mind, however, 12 months later, 100+ books after and through plenty of criticed reviews that followed, I realised before I had even started Middle Ground that I had been wrapped in my emotions for that book that I never really noticed the issues and problems I had, however, with Middle Ground, it did pick up on these features. The biggest issue in this series which I can now see as a defining issue is the world, or in this case, lack of world. Dystopians, as far as I am aware in my minor knowledge of such things, should be set in a world different from ours, some time in the future or a changed present from something that did or didn't happen in the past, as yes, the Awaken series has that explanation, but as a world built around them, it's very unclear and almost lacks any destination placing throughout. You're left to use your imagination a lot more than I personally think you should have to, you are a dystopian book and one of the expected features should be a world I can see and understand without having to split my concentration between reading you and imagining you. The other issue I had in Middle Ground, on some occasions, was the romance, not that I dislike the romance, it's one of the best parts of this series, no, it was more how it dictated how much the character's grew with one another, rather than just grew and developed, and in some cases, where the romance really overshadowed many of the other important, plot relevant moments. What did improve Middle Ground was the plot points and pacing. My expectations of Middle Ground and how I had expected it to play out were entirely different to how things actually did come about and the continued development of the plot and the twists was really enjoyable. Much like the world, there are features that are missing when it comes to the plot arch of this series and in each book as a whole, but Middle Ground really got to grips with the inner workings of this world and I feel, actually developed the battle between digital and normal much more than Awaken had even attempted to start. However, I know for a fact that my emotions for this series play a huge part in just how much I enjoyed Middle Ground, makes this a very biased, very personal review.

As the world in this series lets the side down, the power rests solely with the characters and many people will know, characters can make or break a book for me, so you'll be glad to you know that these characters made this book for me. How often do you find a romance that involves characters who balance out each other perfectly? No very often, there's usually a friction, a tension, but not with Maddie and Justin. Thanks to Justin being involved in this installment much more than I been expecting, Middle Ground managed to take a romance I really enjoyed in Awaken and make me fall in love with every inch of it, how Justin's developed involved him learning to be more confident in his feelings and his emotions, while Maddies growth involved her gaining a better, mature perspective on the outside world as well as learning to be immune to letting some emotions come through and it's the fact that this character growth is gained not only from their experiences, but from each other, that I adore. They each balance one another, they are the support network, they are fully invested in one another, but most of all, they're invested in the other's happiness, and boy did Kacvinsky ensure that happiness wasn't served on the menu in Middle Ground. Seeing Maddies struggle within the detention centre, the physical and mental pain she endured, experiencing that turmoil with her, it was so beautiful painful and resulted in some of my favourite quotes of the entire year - I had expected more of a torture feel in Middle Ground, but what I got was a girl fighting to keep everything that allows her to be herself, her feelings, her thoughts, her memories, and most of all, her love for everything and everyone. Maddie proved herself to be a worthy heroine in my eyes and alongside Justin and they're band of merry men, I do think a difference will be made for the small amount of world in this series.

The Awaken series has a place in my heart. It was my first every dystopian series, it has characters that I can really relate to a world in which I find myself fearing everything we're doing right now to develop technology. Should we be on and using technology as much as we are? Should we keep on developing technology until we make machines out of human beings and cast out those failing or refusing to keep up? Do we really want to be in and live in a world where technology dictates everything we do, everywhere we go, everyone we see and everything we feel? Maybe that's why I have a soft spot for this series, maybe it's those questions I find myself asking, maybe it's the romance that I'm a sucker for, or maybe I feel as though this book and this series, really is a hidden gem for some. Of course, I have my theories over how this series will end, predictions include death, torture, morals and choices, but saying goodbye to such an important series to me, to characters I find myself tuned to and connected, it's going to be a difficult goodbye..

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