Author: Amy Christine Parker
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Acquired Via: Book Nerd Tours
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?
In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:
Pioneer is her leader.
Will is her Intended.
The end of the world is near.
Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound’s underground fortress–the Silo.
Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she’d rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.
I know it is so cliche to call a book "gripping", but seriously, I read Amy Christine Parker's debut novel, Gated in less than six hours. I ignored my own mother, child, Mister, and friends because - let's be honest - finding out what happened to Lyla Hamilton and her community was so much more important. The poor girl is in a cult, for crying out loud! If anyone ever needed my full attention, it was her.
Lyla was a character that I connected with from the first few pages. I come from a family of hunters (and I live with one), so I immediately related to her distaste in pointing a gun at something and shooting. I don't like the idea of killing any living creature (I don't even kill bugs very often), and she really didn't like blowing the heads off of plywood silhouettes of people. She and her community were convinced that the apocalypse was coming three months from the start of the novel because their leader, Pioneer, had been given visions by the Brethren, telling him that Earth's rotation was going to reverse. Every person who lived in Mandrodage Meadows was trained to shoot and kill anyone who tried to come with them when they went into their underground Silo. Poor Lyla didn't want to shoot the plywood's heads off, but she didn't want to disappoint her Intended, Will, her friends Marie and Brian, or even Pioneer. (They all love each other a lot, except for Pioneer, but you know how cult leaders can be.) That was just the first sign that I saw of how conflicted Lyla was in Gated. She seemed to be the only person who had any kind of hesitation about killing people, though she was raised in this lifestyle. I'll just leave her at that for now.
Gated gives a full idea of how these normal-seeming people ended up in a doomsday cult without any warning bells going off. Each family that lived at Mandrodage Meadows was "chosen" by the Brethren to survive the impending apocalypse, and they willingly came with Pioneer and pooled all their money and resources to build the Silo and their little suburb. After 9/11 and each of their personal disasters, Mandrodage Meadows was where they all wanted (and some even needed) to be. It reminded me of the movie The Village a little bit, but without the throwback to the 1800s. Man, it was all so messed up! On one hand, my heart was breaking for these people, and on the other, I just wanted to shake them!
Anyways, back to Lyla, she had a lot of questions. A lot of it stemmed from her best friend, Will, being her Intended, but she wasn't quite sure if she was in love with him like some of the other couples. Then she meets a boy when some Outsiders come to Mandrodage Meadows on business. She is given the task of taking Cody on the "full tour" (not a tour at all) and bonds with him at the stables when visiting her horse, Indy. The only issues that I had with Gated stemmed from Lyla and Cody's interaction, but it never took away from the novel.
Something that really stood out to me while I was reading Gated were the quotes at the start of each chapter that slowly became more and more sinister. Some were from Pioneer, the Bible, and then later Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Charles Manson. They really set the tone for each chapter and built up the tension. Again, I read this book in six hours because the stupid book wouldn't let go of me!
By the way, you might just cry a little in the book. I steeled myself to it (I knew what I was getting into), but Gated was heartbreaking. I don't think you can have a story about a cult that doesn't make you sad. Things generally don't end well, especially so when there is extremism going on, and hoo boy is there in Mandrodage Meadows! That Pioneer is an evil bastard, and he becomes a near perfect villain by the end. (All that he was missing was the maniacal "mwah ha ha ha".)
I guess what I'm trying to say is - go read Gated. I know you're probably starting to get a little bored with dystopians, sappy contemporaries, vampires, and/or time travel. This is something different! It's a gritty, heart-wrenching novel that I think fans of any genre will enjoy. I also want you to notice that I've tried to avoid saying "young adult" throughout the review because I don't want that to get Gated swept under anyone's rug. Seriously, you should be reading the book now, not my review.
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About the Author
Amy Christine Parker earned her degree in elementary education at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and then proceeded to try out many different jobs, including collectible doll maker, fondue waitress, and inner-city schoolteacher. It wasn't until she became a mom and began making up bedtime stories for her children that she finally realized what she was meant to do. Now Amy writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat. Her first novel, Gated, debuts with Random House Children's August 6, 2013.
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received the book for reviewing purposes through Book Nerd Tours in exchange for an honest review. The advance copy was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.
This book counts toward my completion of the Debut Author Challenge.