ACID by Emma Pass

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ACID by Emma Pass

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Enjoyable prison breakout conspiracy story set in a near-future dystopian prison. A bit light for anyone interested in the thematic background but fans of high octane action and kick ass heroines will love it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Corgi
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0552566144

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The UK is now the IRB - Independent Republic of Britain. It's no longer run by elected politicians, who were completely discredited after a catastrophic financial crash. Instead, the IRB is a police state, led by ACID, a fearsomely authoritarian organisation. Marriage has been abandoned in favour of life partnering - the state tells you who to live with and whether or not you can have a child. Contact with the outside world is forbidden. Society is divided, with a tiny wealthy elite and a huge mass of an underclass living in poverty and shortage.

Jenna Strong is in a high security prison. ACID has locked her away for life for the murder of her parents. Jenna can barely remember the crime but is convinced that it was an accident. Life in prison has taught Jenna what it takes to survive, so when a rebel group breaks her out and gives her a new identity, she is determined to get to the truth. But can anyone defeat ACID?

Um... I really wanted to love this book. I'm a sucker for a prison novel and I love dystopian settings. I also want to read about girls whose lives don't revolve entirely around boys. And I did like it. ACID has a kick ass heroine, more action than you could shake a stick at and a super twisty-turny plot with a few surprises along the way. Fans of The Hunger Games will enjoy it, as will anyone who loves a strong female central character.

But I didn't quite love it. The dystopian setting is well described, but less well explained. After a devastating financial crash, the UK found itself in the hands of a militaristic, authoritarian group - I can believe that. But somehow, this group has succeeded in a secession from the rest of the world (no EU or UN membership anymore, no internet for citizens) and therefore their abuses of the population are unseen and unhindered - quite how they managed this is unclear and the presentation of Britain as some future copy of North Korea just doesn't ring at all true. Especially when you're told that the resistance groups are going to take down ACID via a European court of human rights. Oh, that's still going strong, then? I just didn't believe it, sorry.

Whenever the plot gets tangled or sticky or readers may have missed a clue, Pass inserts narrative-breaking news clips or letters or official communications. I don't much like these devices because they shove me out just as I'm beginning to live in the world I'm reading about - I'd prefer simply to trust the story to show me what I need to know. And although this is presented as a prison breakout story, there really isn't that much about the breakout. It's done and dusted by page 22.

So, if you are looking for thematic depth or a speculative story you can really believe in or think about, then ACID may be too light for you. But if you're in the market for a rollercoaster ride and a heroine who doesn't spend all her time mooning after silly boys, then you'll love it. And good for you for that.

If you like the idea of reading about prisons in dystopian futures, you could also try Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. The Disappeared by C J Harper features a school, not a prison, but we wouldn't want to be sent there!

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