It was tempting to leave this review at that one word. Here’s why this Slated Trilogy by Teri Terry justifies a wow:

• This is one of the few series where the middle book in the trilogy wasn’t weaker than the first or last book and that is truly rare. Even in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (yes it’s outside this genre), one of my faves, I did feel a little let down by The Two Towers compared to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King.

• Usually all the good characterization and stuff is reserved for the one or two, sometimes even three main characters. Not the case in Shattered. The supporting characters don’t just fill in the spaces around our main character Kyla/Rain/Lucy, but they are fully drawn themselves. They may get less words, but even in the limited lines I can completely imagine how they look, sound, and move. Moreover, I find them just as interesting and can see them taking a main role in another story, I find them as hard to say goodbye to as the main character herself. Plus, when I say supporting characters I am not talking about just one or two sidekick types. There’s Finley and Madison, Len, Stella, Florence, Gianelli, Dr. Lysander, Gregory, Sandra-Armstrong Davis, Cora, Mrs. Medway…..

• Pacing – I am sure it’s a tricky balance for authors in the dystopian/apocalyptic genre to balance characterization with action and Shattered walks that fine line nicely. In this story Kyla is trying to figure out her identity and I don’t just mean her history and genetics, she is trying to figure out the kind of person she really is. She has the training of an AGT assassin, she hasn’t fully committed to MIA and when a woman and child are snatched by Lorders in front of her she questions her own morals as she chose self-preservation over speaking out. She struggles to figure out her parental and romantic relationships and how they fit into her life. Yet all her inner monologue and searching are accompanies by lots of action and tension as she is trying to do all this while on the run or in hiding.

• Raising the bigger questions – I especially enjoy books of this genre that don’t just describe someone surviving in this type of society, but looks at the deeper questions of our humanity. I was struck how often Kayla repeated the refrain of if people collectively just stood up, they could put a stop to something bad, in this case the Lorders disappearing people. However, it did remind me much of studying the Holocaust and how people would look away when seeing neighbors and friends hauled off by the Nazis. It also reminds me of current times, the deep anger and disappoint with our government (both parties) and yet I read a recent article that basically said despite their low rating, incumbents continue to be voted back in across the board. If everyone voted out the current gov’t employees by finding a new candidate or third party candidate, what would happen next?

• The ‘love triangle’. I have a friend who even though she respects my recommendations hasn’t read any dystopian books lately as she says she is sick of the focus on romance, especially love triangles, in these dysfunctional worlds and how they are handled. Yes, I suppose you could say there is a slight love triangle, though Ben and Aiden came into Kyla’s life at different times without a lot of overlap. However, the romance(s) haven’t distracted Kyla from her goals as in many other books of this ilk. She isn’t some moony teen who is putting her personal life above what’s most important and she isn’t letting any relationship shape or subsume her.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t read this last bit if you have not finished the series!
How the relationship with Ben plays out is handled with a real maturity by Teri Terry in Shattered. To take the Romeo and Juliet situation and have Juliet not end up with Romeo was a risk. There isn’t any sense that the author did this for shock value, such as the death of Tris in Divergent. She simply shows an understanding and sensitivity to real relationships as well as her main character. Kyla is strong enough to survive the outfall of the Ben situation and she grows from it. I also liked how the author didn’t have her fall directly and immediately into Aiden’s arms either. Kyla’s situation mirrors that of the world she sacrificed to save, for just as society and government in the UK will take time to change and the citizens will need to absorb the pain of the past and adjust to the new way of life, so does our heroine. As in life, there aren’t any fairy tale endings, just people living their lives.


The Ward

I have never experienced a book being better in the second half than the first! It was The Ward by Jordana Frankel that delivered this unusual experience. Rennie is an orphan as are many kids in a world where the has killed off a lot of parents and kids in a world that was already destroyed by the Great Wash Out which has put New York City underwater creating an interesting subterranean world. In this world fresh water is more valuable than diamonds, and food and opportunity is pretty scarce too for those who live in the Ward, formerly Manhattan.

When we meet Rennie, she is determined not to get close to any of the other children at the orphanage as she is sure they will be adopted and there isn’t any point in caring about them. That’s how she feels until she meets the irrepressible Aven who grabs her heart as she is sneaking out to join the racers.

It really wasn’t clear initially how this street racing works as the ‘streets’ would be underwater, but gradually details emerge that they race vehicles that are part mini car and part amphibious vehicles. Rennie ends up being quite a good racer, and her earnings help her buy meds for Aven who ends up catching the disease. Plus, she has to race as part of her cover. Caught earlier stealing for fresh, she is forced to work undercover for the current regime’s quasi military/spy network.

So the first half seemed a bit stereotypical about the tough orphan with the secret heart of gold. A girl who succeeds in the misogynistic sport of racing, who is controlled by an evil government, etc. The juvenile relationships and dialogue were reminiscent of The Uglies series, which while entertaining could sometimes verge on annoying. It just seemed that this was more of an entertaining action type of dystopian/apocalyptic story. Then midway through Jordana Frankel starts raising serious food for thought as Rennie has to ponder whether saving one life is worth more than the many, what if the lives she is saving aren’t people worthy of being saved, etc. My reaction was like those times when you are in a sleep lull and suddenly you jerk awake. I felt like I was suddenly brought into a more sophisticated story with depth.

I hope the next book will continue along the track of the second half of this first one and not model the first half.