Dystopia. Thanks to the success of The Hunger Games, there's been an onslaught of dystopian young adult literature over the last five years. Some of it's been pretty good, most of it has been Hunger Gamesripoffs. It's gotten to the point that I'll see that a book is set in a dystopia, which used to excite me...and I'll immediately shut down.
Despite those feelings, I found a book recently that I really enjoyed, Proxy, by Alex London. The tagline for the 2013 novel is "some debts can not be repaid," and that's an ongoing theme in the book.
The story takes place some time in the future, where the world has been divided into the haves and the have-nots. The "haves" live in unbelievable luxury, and everyone else scrambles for the scraps. There are are walls and systems that separate the two groups, and one of the wealthiest kids in town is Knox. Knox's father is fairly high up in the security agency that is like the police force for his city, but that doesn't keep Knox out of trouble. He parties, he's foolish, he crashes cars, he ends up killing a friend. The twist here is that Knox is never punished for anything he does. Instead, he's forced to watch a monitor where he sees a proxy, a poor boy named Syd, punished for his actions. They don't know each other, Syd doesn't know the name of the person whose actions result in his pain and imprisonment. Knox, a kid who lacks any kind of empathy, doesn't care that his actions are hurting Syd.
Eventually the two meet, figure out each other's identity, and end up trying to kill each other. Until they find they have more in common than they expected, and this knowledge puts them onto a path that will take them beyond either of their worlds.
There were many elements of this world that reminded me of the recent movie Elysium, parts of which I really enjoyed. The gulf between the rich and the poor is something that we're seeing grow as time goes on, and the scenarios in Proxy don't seem that far away from what's happening around us. There are people who live in gated communities, separated from the commoners, who are driven in a fancy car from their fleet of fancy cars. Some of these people even run for president. In any case, there are disparities around us, and Proxy exaggerates them a bit to tell a surprisingly compelling story.
If you're looking for a fresh take on dystopias with a very interesting story, hunt down Proxy. It's a good read. My only caveat -- it ends with a cliffhanger. So there will be another book in the series. I'll be reading that one too.