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Acid by Emma Pass

  • Date published: 1st May 2013
  • Publisher: Random House AU (Corgi Children’s)
  • Format: Paperback, 448 pages
  • ISBN 13: 9780552566148
  • Categories: YA – Dystopian
  • Goodreads / Booktopia / Bookworld
  • Source: provided by the publisher for review
  • Challenge: 2013 Début Author Challenge

2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID – the most brutal, controlling police force in history – rule supreme. No throwaway comment or muttered dissent goes unnoticed – or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a bloody crime she struggles to remember.

The only female inmate in a violent high-security prison, Jenna has learned to survive by any means necessary. And when a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID – and to uncover the truth about what really happened on that dark night two years ago.

ACID sounds amazing – a kick-butt girl, a dystopian society, a search for secrets buried in the past. While its an engaging read, set in a dystopian UK and following a rebellion to overthrow the controlling government, ACID is severely let down by its complicated plot-line. I think it could have been a much stronger book if the loose ends had been tied up.

Jenna Strong is a great character who can take care of herself in any situation. The book begins with her beating the crap out of a fellow prisoner, and it’s immediately obvious that this is not a girl you can mess with.

Although, I’m still mystified at why she’s the only female prisoner in an all-male prison. It feels like the author is saying that in this society, all the high risk prisoners are male, except for Jenna, which is ridiculous. Also, a change in surname might have been good; it’s a bit of a cop-out of you have a strong female character and name her ‘Strong’ so no one can possibly miss it?

Jenna goes through a lot in this book, and I think for the first third or so, I really liked her. She thinks through all her decisions, proves she’s intelligent and aware of the consequences of her actions. It all goes downhill for her the moment she meets Max Fisher.

Max is a fairly bland character. Aside from the attraction Jenna had towards him, I can’t actually figure out whether there was anything special about him. He’s just … there. However, when Jenna meets him, she starts to change into someone else. She doesn’t immediately fall for him, which I liked, but somehow, protecting Max makes her soft. They meet a rebelling force, who are hell-bent on destroying ACID and their supporters, but this avenue is never explored, with the author choosing to focus on how much Jenna and Max want to kiss one another. Jenna suddenly can’t negotiate with enemies or think straight when they’re on the run, and eventually ends up making silly decisions that result in their capture.

I really like the dystopian world that has been created in this book, where a normal police force has taken over a whole country after a financial melt-down that destroyed the government. We get short glimpses into what life is like in other countries, which always makes me happy. I think the way the story is told, with newspaper articles, letters and transcripts of conversations between ACID agents interleaved throughout, is clever. It allows readers a more rounded view of the action than a book normally provides. However, ACID comes across as vaguely stupid. Although the author tries very hard to make them terrifying, I can’t really understand how they managed to lose Jenna so many times, and how incompetent they seemed to be at keeping track of her and other rebels.

The plot fails to deliver in ACID – it’s convoluted and there are a myriad of lost plotting elements throughout. After a daring rescue from a prison, Jenna is given a new face and identity and assimilated back into society with a LifePartner, Cade (ACID chooses everyone’s spouses, jobs and when they can have children). However, Cade just disappears from the story, which was weird. Then it happened again, with Jordan and then Evan! I don’t get it, all these boys come and go in the story, usually adding nothing and just taking up space. Jenna’s experiences are haphazard and almost non-sensical – she goes through three faces, four names, and two LifePartners in this book. Again, I had a feeling that it’s just too easy for people to hide from ACID, who supposedly know everything and monitor everyone.

I enjoyed reading ACID, with its kick-arse heroine and interesting dystopia, but found the plot to be incomprehensible. Overall, I feel like ACID could have been a much stronger book if all its elements tied together a lot better. There are hints at a sequel, which could be exciting – I would read a sequel set in this world if the issues in plotting were addressed.

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