AViVA, self/less, Pan Macmillan Australia, Semptember 2021, 416 pp., RRP $29.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760984892
I was excited when self/less came across my desk and I read the promotional blurb accompanying it. A world where self-expression is banned. A world where survival is everything. A girl who will be heard. However, after reading this title I am largely disappointed. The plot reads like a mash-up between The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale with ideas borrowed from other post apocalytic, dystopian YA series such as Divergent.
The story is told from the point of view of 17 year old Teddy Veodrum, a citizen of Metropolis. Metropolis is a futuristic city that exists after the great war and in which all forms of self expression such as art and religion are banned. Citizens are encouraged to spy on one another and report all suspicious behaviour to the government. Any citizens caught engaging in such activities are “Sanitised”. The reader quickly (and I do mean quickly) discovers that all is not as it seems. Teddy who is dissatisfied with the status quo, is reluctant about receiving her Job Placement and being Sealed to a life partner, stumbles upon an underground civilization of people who have escaped the tyranny of the City.
At breakneck speed Teddy becomes the new ruler of one of the underground clans. For me this was the biggest plot hole. There are other people in the underground more qualified for this position. Despite taking on a leadership role Teddy fails to act like a leader at every opportunity. When her life is essentially being threatened because of her position of power she makes very little attempt to befriend other ‘Outsiders’. Her leadership is supported by her best friend and boyfriend. However, she doesn’t appear to completely trust them and they don’t seem to have faith in her.
I won’t spoil the ending…self/less is part of a series with the next title relent/less slated for release in 2022 so the reader is left with many threads hanging.
As I mentioned the part of the promotional blurb that caught my eye was ‘living in a world where self expression is banned’. I think the title would have benefited from more exploration and development of this back story before leaping into the action. What’s it like growing up unable to play, draw, sing etc.? How do you navigate relationships when you’re constantly watching and being watched? There’s definitely room here for the writer, AViVA, to grow and improve. With one book under her belt, I hope that like The Hunger Games the writing for this series improves as the series progresses.
Reviewed by Anne Varnes