YOU CAN BE A VII. IF YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING.
For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.
If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.
There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.
This book had a pretty great premise to it, but it failed to deliver. Almost all the parts I was eager to read about were straight-up missing from the story. Oh, no, Kitty has to stop a rebellion! Or…not really the whole book is family squabbles. Well, I guess there’s a reason no one wanted to put that in the summary blurb.
The first half of this book, despite some rough patches, was actually pretty good. I liked the set-up, and I liked (most) of the dystopian world, I liked the transformation Kitty went through to become Lila and all the hiccups she had to deal with learning to not only look like a new person but also act like a new person. At that point, the narrow focus on a single family and the bubble-like setting worked. It didn’t mind that we didn’t get to see the rest of the world, because we were still trying to establish the major players.
And then the latter half of the book just fell apart. There were a great number of moments where people said “I can’t do this because reasons” or “You have to do it this way because reasons” or “so-and-so did this because we needed a plot.” There was very little sense behind any of it. For a lot of things, I felt like the author knew what the reasons were and she just forgot to tell us, and we couldn’t figure it out on our own because we didn’t get enough context to fill in the details. Maybe if we understood how the power structure in this world works, we’d know why certain people can’t be killed or certain truths can’t be told, but we don’t. It’s also in the second half of the book that the tiny cast really causes problems. The book so badly wants to have a rebellion and massive upheavals and such in the country, but at the same time it’s unwilling to expand past the Hart family, so instead of having country-wide goings-on, we’ve just got this one family that has a lot of in-fighting. The series may be titled “The Blackcoat Rebellion,” but you’ll never see a single Blackcoat actually do anything in this novel. If the book had intended to be all about the squabbles of a single powerful family, that probably could have worked, but trying to mix rebellion and familicide as if they’re the same thing created an awkward disconnect in this novel.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the setting in this book. At first, I was pretty happy. I could actually believe that our country would take the concept of meritocracy out to such extremes, and it made me smile to see that used as a base for the dystopian. But then, in the midst of all that fine-ness, we suddenly also get “and also we shoot people in the head for very little reason.” Um…way to be needlessly evil. Wasn’t locking people into shitty jobs and giving them inadequate resources enough to qualify as evil? Did you really have to include “Elsewhere?” (Oh, and don’t get me started on Elsewhere. The summary is basically “no part of this idea is actually feasible.”) Also, there’s my biggest problem with the setting, which is that Kitty has people on-hand from page one telling her that the government is a big giant lie. Half the fun of a dystopian is having the main character come to terms with the fact that everything she’s learned is wrong and bad, but here, that’s replaced with everyone and their grandma saying “no, this is totally all bull.”
Grade: 3 out of 5