Taken by Erin Bowman
Taken (Taken 1)
By: Erin Bowman
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Katy’s Rating: 3 stars
Mitch’s Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.They call it the Heist.Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?|
I liked that Bowman tried to make this book different with the strange, and slightly disturbing concept. But by the end, I felt that she pulled out all the stops, and it ended up being your typical dystopian.
THE HEISTS – I’m a huge dystopian fan, but these days, there is such an influx of them, and they really do all start sounding the same. So I’m all for a different concept – even if it’s a bit riske. I think Bowman was very bold to create a society where boys disappear on the 18th birthday. They weren’t exactly oppressed, though their standards of living seemed pretty primitive. And they had to fast-track a lot of things – growing up, training for jobs, slating and mating – as they prepare for the inevitable.
I do think Bowman could have a worked a little more on world-building because 1) I didn’t even know how old Kale was until 2/3 through the book, she’s under 3 by the way and 2) the concept of the wall wasn’t really clear, as in I couldn’t figure out what was the dangerous part beyond the wall, and I wasn’t clear why or especially how these bodies were coming back – do they just magically appeared charred or someone brought them back. And the secret Blaine had been hiding from Gray was very intriguing indeed.
BEHIND IT ALL – With that interesting concept, I have to turn to the big question, “Why was such a society created.” And that was kind of where the book, while entertaining enough, failed to meet my expectations.
The story was by no means unpredictable. It was not hard to guess who were the good guys and the bad guys, and I knew there were certain people who didn’t seem important would have a greater role in the grand scheme of things.
Here was where the problems started. Bowman began pulling all of the tricks out of her hat into creating your typical dystopian and that I’m left wondering, “Where the heck did that come from, and how is that really going to fit in here?”
MAJOR SPOILERS ALERT! DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAD NOT READ THE BOOK! (View spoiler on my Goodreads.)
So overall, did I like this book? Yes, I was entertained because there was a good mix of a unique concept, some strange but evident romance (although the last quarter kind of pissed me off), interesting characters, and a little bit of action at the end. However, despite the intriguing start, the rest of the book just failed to blow me away, and I felt Bowman wasted such great potential.
Taken is one of those books that relies on secrets and lies to build suspense leading up to the big payoff, which means two things. One, unfortunately it’s a tough book to review because spoilers are a definite no-no, can’t ruin it for those of you yet to read it, can I? But more importantly two, what’s behind the curtain has to be good, or at least worth the price of admission of pulling it back.
And in Taken‘s case, it wasn’t. I want to say I felt like Dorothy inThe Wizard of Oz who’s just peeked behind the curtain and found a mere man instead of the all powerful wizard she was expecting, but that’s not even the case; the mystery behind the Heist is so painfully obvious once Gray really starts digging into the disappearances the curtain was really a transparent shower curtain and I could see the fuzzy outlines of my disappointment a mile away. I guess a good comparison would be with M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, another story about an isolated village of people living in medieval accommodations with a similarly themed dark secret about the town – checking the rotten reviews on Rotten Tomatoes gives me dozens of choice yet apt critiques that completely apply to this book:
‘I’m not sure exactly why I’m protecting the Shocking Twist, because it certainly doesn’t deserve to be protected.’
‘It’s hard to care about situations that have been designed only to obscure the ultimate twist.’
And my favorite because it’s absolutely on target here:
‘Picturesque, slightly haunting but silly in a frustrating way.’
And that’s about it. You have a book divided into four parts, Part One being Gray’s life in ‘The Village’ of Claysoot where he’s glumly accepting of his ultimate fate until his brother gets Heisted and he stumbles onto a clue that points him toward the ultimate secret behind the Heists. It’s not bad, Erin Bowman goes all out creating a society where the guys disappear at eighteen (requiring a lot of teen fathers!!), but beyond the one or two mysterious clues Gray digs up, there’s really no movement towards any answers. Why? Bowman also goes all out protecting the reason why the guys are disappearing – absolutely nothing is explained at all, the only development is certain people behaving suspiciously because of course there’s a conspiracy. That or Gray and/or his (girl)friend Emma pointing out various inconsistencies in the setup I could’ve and did notice myself. Very useful you two.
After all the intentional confusion in Part One, I was hoping for some answers in Part Two, when Gray finally builds up the courage to leave town, confront the dangers beyond, and get to the truth. And Gray gets to the truth, I got answers, that’s not my problem. No, my problem’s that it’s obvious Bowman’s thinking ahead to Parts Three and Four, so she’s giving away a twisted version of the truth, sort of making Claysoot a dystopian society within a dystopian society, with more secrets and conspiracies in the bigger dystopian society outside Claysoot, like peeling back the layers of an onion. In a way, it works, explaining why we’d have this messed up town – except, Bowman doesn’t really do a good job with this bigger dystopian society. Claysoot was fine, but the stuff outside with the government conspiracy, secret police, malevolent dictatorship, all of it is just generic and doesn’t stand out from every other dystopian premise. Even worse, once the secrets come spilling out, the version of the truth Gray’s presented in Part Two is so painfully transparent I called the entire setup – including the purpose of Claysoot and the Heists – immediately upon the return of a certain character. After that, Taken just failed to surprise me – ever.
I wish I had positive things to say about Parts Three and Four, but they were just your average take down the evil, corrupt establishment plot I’ve read so many times now I’d pay a lot of good money to an author who can actually surprise me with something unique and different. Ok, maybe Bowman did surprise me a little bit, but she did it by introducing a superfluous love triangle late in the game to, I don’t know, annoy people who hate love triangles? Because it certainly wasn’t well done or anything, you can’t just write a triangle from a male point of view by recycling the same two guy characters from every other book and making them girls instead. And there was something about cloning too (none of it I actually saw), called Forgeries here, except it didn’t do much of anything for the plot expect provide another reason to hate the dystopian government who can now add human experimentation to the long list of its crimes. Yawn.
So Taken starts from a good premise, and kept my interest at first by not showing its hand and revealing the true extent of what’s going on. But once that first card was revealed, the rest of the hand becomes so transparent the story did nothing for me after that. Disappointing.