The Cage by Megan Shepherd is a technically a dystopian story, although in this case the repressive regime is made up of aliens.
Cora wasn’t exactly a typical teenage girl even before the alien abduction. She is the daughter of a Senator and an actress and has recently been released for a long term stint in juvie for manslaughter. After waking up in an alien environment where different landscapes and climates all jut up next to each other, she finds she is not alone. There are other teens, Rolf a Norwegian genius, Nok a Thai model, Leon a Maori from a criminal family, and finally Lucky an American boy who may have a connection to Cora. Actually, there was one more teen who woke up but something terrible has happened to her. That will be a problem as now there is an uneven number of teens and yet each teen is supposed to be mated with one of the others by a 21 day deadline.
Their alien abductors watch from behind one way glass scattered throughout the environments, similar to the one-way glass in police stations, except in this case the aliens are more like scientists or anthropologists observing their behaviors. The aliens have put different types of puzzles into each locale and if they solve a puzzle they receive tokens which can be redeemed for different items, similar to gaming places now.
Supposedly the aliens have abducted them for their own good as humans are destroying the Earth , unlike the aliens that are higher beings with telepathic and other abilities despite looking very similar to humans. Their caretaker alien is named Cassian and he has a particular affinity to Cora. Cora who the others get angry with as when she solves a puzzle she is given many more tokens than the others. Other incidents like this cause a rift in the group.
Rolf and Nok have reasons based on their pasts that make them believe that despite their captivity their extended cage is not so bad. Leon is too haunted by a memory from their first day to care about anything else. Lucky is consumed with guilt over an action he took back on Earth and which is revealed later in the story. Cora simply wants to go home, home even with all the problems of divorcing parents, her peers who can’t relate to her after her time in juvie, and all the pressures of being a Senator’s daughter. Plus, there is Cassian and her mixed feelings about him.
It’s the latter which hurts this story as Cassian becomes part of a love triangle that also includes Lucky. I personally am not sure I would feel anything but hatred for my abductor, but maybe she has Stockholm’s Syndrome? I kind of think it sense the wrong message to young girls everywhere that there could be anything attractive about a character like Cassian who has control over you, am I wrong? Its that sick dominance thing combined with the stilted triangle that made me no fan of this book. Even the ending wasn’t great and it was confusing to boot as to whether this was a one-off story or whether it had the inevitable sequel…turns out it does. That kind of stinks for me because after what an economist would term a sunk cost, I wrongly feel that I must continue with the next.