The First Twenty

The First Twenty - Jennifer Lavoie The haunting cover and the intriguing blurb sold me. So fast I didn't notice it's one of genres I generally avoid--Y.A.

The story is set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world where scattered pockets of humanity struggle to survive everyday, and resources like water is scarce and often contaminated. In the book's limited worldview, civilization is divided into 'settlers' and 'scavengers'. That sort of translates to the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. Not much different from the old world. Caught in that classic conflict is Peyton and Nixie, two teens from opposite sides of the fence.

The book tries hard to place these characters in a real world situation but it just feels contrived and unrealistic. 18-year-old Peyton being voted head guard of an entire human settlement, just because she is her father's daughter? 18-year-old Nixie, with zero fighting skills, but very needed water detecting skills, being forced to risk a dangerous mission when her talent is clearly not required for it? These two ladies need to meet somehow in certain pre-defined roles, so logic is sacrificed for expediency. :(

Things fare better when the author starts letting us into Nixie's psyche. She's probably the only well-rounded character here. Her motives, fears, and yearnings humanize the entire book. For someone who has suffered so much deprivation and emotional abuse, she's incredibly mature and practical when it comes to relationships. In the scene where Peyton says 'I didn't mean anything by it' when referring to 'The Kiss'--Nixie's reaction is refreshingly different (thankfully) and not the usual trope of self-denial and dragged-out angst typical of YA, and even adult lesfic.

Everything else about the book is pretty lightweight: the world-building, the plot, one-dimensional characters, the dialogue. This is not to say that it's bad. Just rather simplistic. Overall the pacing was good, though the subplot about the city jaunt could have been spiced up a bit with more excitement. In hindsight, it just seemed like a plot device to get the MCs more alone time.

Overall, I think teens and young adults will appreciate this book more. I'm just not the intended audience.

3.5 stars