Alice in No-Man’s-Land
By James Knapp
Author’s Website: http://www.james-knapp.com/
Review brought to you by OBS reviewer LizzyO
When her escape pod falls to earth, crashing in Ypsilanti Bloc, privileged seventeen-year-old Alice Walshe is dashed from the wonderland of wealth and prosperity into a ruined, walled city overrun with militias, gangs, and even cannibals. On top of this horror, her younger brother’s escape pod is missing.
Alice isn’t naïve – she’s always known blocs like Ypsilanti exist, left behind after a foodborne illness ravished the country decades earlier and left pockets of severe urban decay in its wake. Men like her father – a major player at Cerulean Holdings – renew the devastated blocs and bring stability back into the areas. But, Ypsilanti is even worse than the tales she’s heard, and rumor has it the bloc is faced with the threat of extermination by Cerulean, not renewal.
Trapped within Ypsilanti’s borders and left for dead, Alice teams up with a pair of teen scavengers who tracked the wreck of her pod. Despite their rough exterior and vulgar speech, they’re her only option for navigating the hostile and violent environment of Ypsilanti, finding her brother, and getting out of No-Man’s-Land alive. (Amazon)
When I first met the heroine of the story, Alice Walshe, she is on a flight to the Ypsilanti Bloc with her father, Yuric, as well as her brother Cody and Yuric’s girlfriend, Greta. Yuric is a high profile businessman who deals in reclaiming land that has been abandoned by the government. A horrific attack on the group’s plane is the start of Alice’s personal journey towards a clearer understanding of the entitled world in which she lives. This allows her to see the true nature of the Ypsilanti Bloc and the people that reside there.
What I liked the best about the character of Alice, is that she is a very real and relatable character who doesn’t make an unbelievable jump from a supporter of Cerulean Holdings and New Windsor City to a supporter of the squatters and other residents of Ypsilanti. Her growth slowly develops over the course of the book which makes sense due to Alice’s upbringing. I also appreciated how the characters in the story were not written as black and white caricatures, but were given multi-dimensional roles.
A surprise for me was how touched I was between the post-mortem relationship that developed between Alice and Greta. At the beginning of the story, Alice has no love for Greta and appears to dislike her even though she realizes that Greta was not responsible for the breakup of her parents marriage. Greta tries very hard to get Alice to see her not as the enemy but as a friend. During Alice’s travels through Ypsilanti, she reflects on the plane crash and comes to realize that Greta actually cared deeply for both her and Cody and made the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.
Alice is rescued after the plane crash by two scavengers, Basilio and Maya, who are around the same age as Alice. Both scavengers help Alice realize that life for the Ypsilanti residents is not what she was lead to believe. The author did a wonderful job using these two supporting characters to help with Alice’s evolution from her father’s protege to budding activist for the disenfranchised residents in Ypsilanti. Alice doesn’t blindly hold on to her world as she knew it.
“There’s only three ways out of the Bloc; the sweatshops, the army, or the ground”
What I also appreciated were the quotes that the author begins each chapter with. This provided me with insight into the world I was reading about, which would not normally be available in a first person narrative. The quotes were short, but came from a variety of sources, which added a depth to the story. I like that the sources of the quotes held different viewpoints of Ypsilanti and the problems faced by those both inside and outside the Bloc.
I did find that this story may be too dark for a younger YA audience and probably is best suited for older teens and young adults. The author is able to convey horror and fear in certain scenes extremely well, to the point where the events are detailed to a disturbingly authentic level. From Nino, a truly evil gang leader, to Utterback, the head of the Sons of Freedom militia, there is a level of realism to the physical assaults and violence that I appreciate as an older reader, but that I feel would be too upsetting for younger audiences. I also found that the ending didn’t give me the closure I needed, as the story seemed to wrap up too quickly and it didn’t wrap up some loose ends for me. I am hoping that this means the author intends to continue the story of Alice and her newfound friends and family.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves dystopian worlds. I loved the author’s ability to write a well thought out story, with great individuals that I grew to care about. Definitely a well written character driven story that is fast paced and exciting throughout.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*