Reading level: Young adult
Trade paperback: 332 pages
Release date: September 15, 2012
Series: Outlier Chronicles #1
Source: Review copy from Kismet Book Touring
Reviewed by: Jenn
Tessa can’t sleep.
But when your parents are dead and the government directs your path in life, sleep shouldn’t come easily. Lately, Tessa’s fitful nights are growing even more predictable, almost like déjà vu. And she’s beginning to think that something greater is at work—something her society has taken drastic measures to keep hidden.
Caught between self-discovery and government conformity, she’ll have to choose either the boy who can help her reveal this new truth or the one that can provide her with the security of familiarity.
Tessa’s faced with a weighty decision. And she’s going to need more than a good night’s sleep to make it.
I hadn’t heard of TRACED before I signed up for the Kismet’s tour. There are so many YA dystopian books out there right now that this one got lost in the crowd for me. I’m pleased to have discovered it, though, because TRACED is the beginning of a promising new series. It’s not a perfect book but Megan Squires has created an interesting world that I’d like to explore more.
Let’s start off with the good stuff. I really dig the setting. It’s a near-future America where democracy has been replaced by the Hub and its Sectors. Children grow up knowing that they’ll be chosen by a Sector when they turn eighteen. They don’t really have aspirations because the Sector that picks them is supposed to be the perfect fit. People also don’t have real choices: those who choose not to accept the Sector that picks them and instead choose their own path are Discarded, socially frowned upon outliers that don’t belong in this highly structured world. TRACED is the first book in a proposed trilogy exploring what it means to be an outlier in this regimented world.
The protagonist of TRACED, Tessa, a high school junior with no major aspirations. She’ll go with whichever Sector she gets placed in. She hasn’t really been engaging with life since her parents died two years ago and she’s fine with continuing to coast through life. She does what she’s supposed to and that’s okay. But things start to change as she learns more about her dad’s past and wanting things for herself. It’s dangerous to speak out against the Hub but Tessa goes from fearing the Hub to embracing herself, which is a neat journey. The title of the novel comes from an ability that Tessa discovers she has: the ability to “trace” events. I won’t talk too much about it so that you can learn what it means along with Tessa but it’s an interesting power with lots of potential ramifications. It made me wonder what other special abilities might be present in the population.
TRACED also contains a love triangle. Tessa is torn between two boys: Joel, her cousin’s best friend and star of their high school, and Liam, the new kid in town whose family just bought Tessa’s family’s ranch. I know there are a lot of folks out there who don’t care for love triangles, and I don’t like them if they’re poorly executed or there needlessly, but the Joel-Tessa-Liam one is really effective and well written. You can see why Tessa is drawn to both of them and why they both like her and I’m honestly not sure who I’d rather see her with. I have a slight preference for Liam but it could change. I was 100% Team Gale when I read THE HUNGER GAMES but I really didn’t like him by the time I was through with MOCKINGJAY, for example. I hope future books will show us more of what these guys are made of, and I’m really looking forward to that.
The negative: TRACED reads very much like Part One and didn’t feel like a complete story to me. There are so many threads left dangling and a pivotal event is introduced in the last few chapters. I really wasn’t thrilled with how things ended. I got to the “About the Author” page and thought, “Seriously? That’s where it’s stopping?” I can only assume it was logical from the author’s point of view but I don’t feel like TRACED offered a complete story arc. We got most of the way through and then we got a little bump towards the next story without giving me the strong final ending I was looking for.
Overall, though, I liked TRACED. It lays a solid foundation for what could be a great near-future YA dystopian series. I look forward to seeing what happens to Tessa next in RECRUITED.