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The Farm by Emily McKay

  • Date published: 21st November 2012
  • Publisher: Penguin Australia
  • Format: Paperback, 420 pages
  • Series: The Farm, Book 1
  • ISBN 13: 9781405909259 ISBN10: 1405909250
  • Categories: YA – Dystopia, Vampires
  • Goodreads / The Book DepositoryBooktopia / Bookworld
  • Source: provided for review by the publisher

For Lily and her twin sister, Mel, there is only the Farm …

It’s a prison, a blood bank, a death camp – where fear and paranoia rule. But it’s also home, of sorts. Because beyond the electric fence awaits a fate much, much worse.

But Lily has a plan.

She and Mel are going to escape – into the ravaged land outside, a place of freedom and chaos and horrors. Except Lily hasn’t reckoned on two things: first, her sister’s ability to control the horrors; and, secondly, on those out there who desperately want to find and control Mel.

Mel’s growing power might save the world, or utterly end it. But only Lily can protect Mel from what is to come…

I was pleasantly surprised by The Farm: I wasn’t expecting to be quite as thrilling and enjoyable as it is. Well constructed and delivered, The Farm was let down by the narrow-mindedness of its main character.

During their six month imprisonment in The Farm, Lily has been taking care of her twin sister Mel. Mel is autistic, and Lily works very hard to keep her safe, keep her calm, keep them both alive. However, Lily quickly starts thinking that Mel is a burden on her, especially because Mel has regressed into talking in nursery rhymes and is very different from the high functioning teen she was before the world went crazy. Lily is a strong character, stubborn and determined to protect her sister. But she’s also short-sighted, having overlooked the importance of gasoline and tracking devices in her escape plans. In fact, she overlooked a surprising number of things that a smart person would have thought of. Another thing that exasperated me about Lily is that she is very quick to judge people and then stubborn about changing her opinions about them, even when it’s painfully obvious that she was wrong.

In particular, she judges the so-called Breeders on the Farm – girls who have chosen to become pregnant to stop giving up their blood. She hates McKenna, a pregnant girl, on the basis of her pregnancy and basically treats her as a waste of space and doesn’t bother getting to know her. And then, when it turns out that McKenna is a great person, and more selfless than Lily can ever hope to be, Lily asks “How was it that McKenna was a better person than I?“. Lily basically acts like she’s some paragon of goodness because she’s taken care of her autistic sister all her life, and although she readily concedes she would use her body as a bargaining chip if she has to, she judges the girls who do just that to prolong their own lives. Plainly, it’s pathetic, and I didn’t like it at all.

On the other hand, I really liked it when the story switched to Mel’s point of view. It was absolutely beautiful to see how McKay envisioned Mel’s view of the world. I also liked Carter’s conflicted and rather convoluted story line. Although he is average as far as YA heroes go, I really liked seeing his point of view and understanding his motivations for doing the things he does. I think stories with only one point of view tend to tick me off because one party always panics and over reacts and the reader is forced to roll their eyes and just go along with it.

There are other things that bothered me about the book – the rules about the Ticks kept changing. I think it should be a fundamental rule when world building to make the rules and then stick to them! In fact I’ve read an article by Brandon Sanderson that stresses that stories where there are rules that your heroes or villains just ignore is lazy. The Ticks are nocturnal, can’t step on consecrated ground, and only drink blood that has a certain balance of hormones. Except when they don’t – when Carter, Lily and Mel escape The Farm, Ticks attack them in daylight, attack the church they took refuge in, and feed from people I was convinced they wouldn’t go for.

So. The pros are it’s action filled plot and cool history of the Ticks, the cons are the annoying main character and the non-sensical progression of the plot elements. I enjoyed the book despite all this, and plan to read the sequel, The Liar, when it’s published later this year.

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