Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Review: Born by Tara Brown

Goodreads * Amazon * Scribd

274 pages, Published September 2012 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Goodreads synopsis:

"The world has changed. 
The buildings have fallen, blown away with the winds made hot from the bombs.
The roads crumble as the forest takes back the land we stole a long time ago.
It's only been ten years since the end but it feels like a hundred for Emma who has been alone since the beginning, surviving on the skills her crazy father forced on her.
Trust no one.
Pull the trigger.
Stay away from the other survivors
Stay away from The Infected.
She has obeyed his rules since she can remember running from the car accident that claimed his life.
But one night that all changes." 

3.5 Stars

Born is difficult. It's a diamond in the rough and just needs some professional editing and TLC to be a better version of itself and as it stands, I can say I enjoyed it.

The story of Emma pulled me in right away. She's a survivalist living with a wolf called Leo and hasn't seen anyone but "the infected" (sort of like zombies but not quite) in almost a decade. She lives in the woods, has a number of safe and storage houses and keeps to herself as a rule.

Until one day when a girl shows up at her door and for some reason, Emma decides to help her. Turns out the girl, Anna, has a brother who is injured. Thus begins the strange and weak romancey bits between Emma and Jake with her nursing him back to health. Now I admit this book is very weak on the romance. It's not a big hot and heavy panting and sweating affair. The romance is light and fluffy and spare, so if you're tired of borderline erotica in YA fiction, this is a great choice for you.

Emma's reactions to Anna and Jake and the world around her are odd, but I found myself accepting this because of her solitary lifestyle. She's not socialized, she's not sociable. She loves Leo, they're loyal to each other, and she has strengthened her character through the wisdom of her father which she mentions often. He died years before, but he's a strong presence in the book and to Emma.

The infected. I don't know quite what they're supposed to be because they're not really zombies per se. They're more like really sick folks who wander around in a mad stupor. Sort of like a huge pack of drunks.

Dumbledore does not understand.

The infected are not a huge factor in this book, even though as it begins I started thinking it was more along the lines of some kind of zombie warfare in a dystopia kind of thing. They're just hanging in the background, these infected people. They show up here or there and by the time you reach the middle of the novel, you kind of forget they're even there. There are bigger fish Emma has to fry, and this new threat becomes the core conflict in the novel.

Emma's world is a new one that has been crafted after a bio-war engineered by the baddies. They're trying to recreate humanity under controlled conditions and have set up breeder farms where abducted girls and women will be artificially inseminated and produce three children each with a vague promise of "a condo in the city" after their "tour of duty" is done.

Males have their sperm harvested as well, though there's not as many males and mostly females are kept in these breeding farms.

Harry is appalled at these shenanigans.

Jake and Anna have a brother, Will, who Emma finds at a camp once she's ventured away from the safety of her home due to the infected gate crashing the area. The siblings are reunited and Emma starts to fall slightly for Will, while being slightly into Jake. I say slightly because it's all very much in the background. You get a splash here, a splash there.

The core of the story is Emma's fight to save and free the women and girls in the breeder farms and how she risks life and limb to accomplish this feat in a world that's full of mad scientists, rogues, rebels and the infected.

Her personal journey is from a hardened girl who whittles her own arrows and doesn't need anybody, to a young woman who is ready to let others into her life and even yearns for something that looks like a family. She tries to keep Will and Jake (and her feelings for them) at arm's length while she struggles to allow Anna and other girls she's met into her sphere as sisters.

Ellen Page is just so cute!

I liked Emma even though she pushes some areas of believability (is that a word?) and needs to get a handle on her own feelings. Will seems unfortunately way too aggressive and fell for Emma way too fast. He persues her despite his brother also being infatuated with her. Not cool. And Jake, poor Jake. He's just not fleshed out enough. His big moments are trying to steal kisses from Emma and kind of hanging around just to be present. He does not participate much in his own life.  He's just sort of...there. Emma wants to be friends with both of them despite Will grabbing and dragging her and giving her bruises which Emma and Will himself wave off as "talking with their hands."

There are a couple of instances of slut shaming where Emma goes on about a girl in the camp who had a relationship with Will at some point. Emma's commentary goes into deciding that Star's clothing is "asking for trouble" and then humiliates her and calls her "Short Shorts" in front of a group of people.

Emma also had a few instances where she flipped out on men, one during which she nearly killed a man in a camp for snuggling up her one of her friends who was fifteen years old. Being extremely sensitive to the whole use of women and girls as "breeders" and seeing how men have abused women left and right, Emma is a minefield when it comes to protecting and defending her "sisters." It's kind of cool to see that, though I was put off by Mary's reaction -- that Eric didn't deserve it but wait maybe he did because this wasn't his first offense with someone underage. That part was a little confusing.

The writing is quite good at times (and I applaud Tara Brown for not ending up having Emma describe herself in a mirror!) but the dialogue can be somewhat cringe worthy. That's the weakest area of the writing, technically. At one point an 11 year-old girl describes how her mother worked at a "firm". It just didn't sound right coming from a child.

"She was a secretary for a dental firm. My dad was a dentist."

The older characters say things that sound scripted and strange while the younger ones sound way too old.

There was one instance where a person said, "that's a pretty scary dog" and she replied, "he's a wolf." This exchange brought me right back to the 1985 film, The Journey of Natty Gann where there is an extremely similar scene "That's a nice dog," says the man. "He's a wolf," says Natty. Check the movie trailer to watch the exchange. (Jump to 0:40 below.)

There are a few grammatical errors and typos (I found an instance of the author using "peak" instead of "peek" for example) so the book could just use a clean up.

Despite its flaws, I enjoyed Born and read it in the typical time it takes for me to read an interesting and fun book. If I have not finished a book in about a week, it's either extremely long (it took me 6 months to finish The Lord of the Rings) or I got distracted by shiny things (i.e. other books) because it just didn't grip me enough to stick with it consistently. I do most of my reading in the evenings after work and other obligations and if I really like a book I will often stay up until 2 or 3 am or even later (earlier?) to get through as much as possible

I'm off to read the second book in the Born Trilogy, Born to Fight.

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