Review: Surrender by Elana Johnson

Published by Simon Pulse
Released June 5, 2012
480 pages
Where I got it: E-galley received courtesy author
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Description (from author):

Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.

Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque….

Surrender is the next installment in Elana Johnson’s Possession series. I confess, I haven’t read the first, Possession, but was still able to follow along and enjoy Surrender, which shows that this book works as a standalone as well as a sequel. This is one of the more science fiction heavy settings of the current deluge of teen dystopian fiction currently out. There are mechanical spiders that monitor the city, internal memory caches, hoverboards, and more–all of which is in service to maintaining the control of the people in power and denying choices to the general public. However, one of the cool things about the world that Johnson has created is that humans have evolved to sometimes have special powers, which are very much like magic. Some are able to see the future, some can control technology with a touch, others can compel people to do what they say just by using the strength of their voices. All this adds up to a very rich setting, and one that is unlike any other book I can think of.

The characters are what made this story for me. There are a lot of complicated interpersonal relationships going on, and readers discover who they can and cannot trust along with the two narrators, Raine and Gunner. Since I didn’t read the first book, it was a treat for me when Violet’s personality was slowly uncovered. There’s plenty of complicated romance for those who go for that: in this world, you’re pledged to a match at an early age, but that isn’t always the person you really want to be with. A huge part of the characters’ motivations in breaking free from the constricting society is the desire to choose their match, rather than be assigned a future spouse.

Surrender‘s plot is really driven by the underground movement, led by the teens of the story, to break free from the restrictive society in which they live. At times I thought this was a bit heavy-handed, like the fact that the city is named “Freedom,” which is in direct opposition to the obviously totalitarian state and 100% lack of freedom. I think this may work well for teen readers, though, who will most likely relate to the need to break free from restrictions, and to defy parents when they overreach in denying choices to their children.

I was confused at times by the details of the technology and societal structure, and could have used more of a vision of Freedom from an everyday point of view in order to show why anybody would stay living there in the first place, but overall I thought that Surrender moved along quickly and had an intriguing premise and setting. The novel ends on an uncertain note, so readers will want to pick up the next in the series to get some resolution. Surrender will appeal to readers who can’t get enough science fiction-based dystopias, as well as young adult romance.

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