Take one unlikely, hopeless feeling heroine paired with attractive young males, added to a tyrannical government and you’ve got yourself a young adult dystopian novel.
It’s become a sort of formula or pattern with these books lately. Teenagers who feel their lives are constantly being controlled by the adults that rule society until one day, usually around their 16th or 17th birthdays, they are given a chance to change their lives forever.
Divergent gave us the test of factions, Matched had you put into a system and paired with your “life mate”, Delirium had you tested for and wiped of any affectionate emotions and Hunger Games gave you the lovely, once in a lifetime opportunity to be raffled off and put into an arena where you would either fight to survive or suffer a horrible death.
In Pawn, we face yet another test. In this novel the population is kept under control by a kind of numbering system. You live out either a miserable or pampered life until you are 17 and then you must take a test that adds new meaning to standardized and placement testing.
You are given a time limit, generalized questions, and then depending on your results you will have a number tattooed (or rather branded) into the back of your neck. The numbers range from the utter wastes of society I’s up through the royal and larger than life VII’s.
Kitty Doe, a 17 year old girl living in a group home in the wretched slums of D.C, has been branded a less-than-average III, and because III’s are only fit for manual labor, Kitty will be assigned to sewage maintenance -- every teen girl’s dream job.
It’s not all doom and gloom, thanks to Kitty’s very hot and very sweet boyfriend Benjy; He’s there to cheer her up, tell her that she’s special, and even proposed running away with her to escape their fate- but Kitty doesn’t want him to just throw away his life.
On one unfortunate day a street officer notices Kitty stealing an orange from a merchant’s table - an offence punishable by death. Only one things stops the guard from putting a bullet between her eyes... and it just so happens to be, her eyes. The unnatural shade of blue-grey that perfectly match the eyes of the prime minister’s niece, Lila Hart. After being ordered to not move and wait for more guards to arrive, Kitty and Benjy’s natural reactions are to simply run like hell to their group home - thinking they have escaped for good.
Having accepted that her future is quite literally down the toilets and into the sewers, Kitty decides to make a drastic choice.
She joins an acquaintance, Tabs, and decides to work for her at a club where she will sell her body to men to earn money. Despite being completely pure, innocent, and inexperienced she is instantly purchased for three times the amount any ‘seasoned’ woman would make in months of working. But while she hoped this would be a night of profit for her future with Benjy it turns out to be very much the opposite. The man who buys her company turns out to be the Prime Minister who heard of Kitty’s uniquely colored eyes that closely resemble his niece’s and he wanted to see them for himself. You might think the man has an eye fetish...but it’s all a part of his weird, twisted master plan to transform Kitty Doe into his dead niece, Lila Hart.
This is another book that challenges the ideas of socialism and the utopia that these politicians and leaders seek in the fiction world of dystopian novels, a world so strict in who deserves what that only the higher IV’s and V’s are allowed to steal from street merchants. Societies that purposely divide the people, controlling where and how they live, how many children they are permitted to have and raise, and keep a strong grip over their personal choices and words against their superiors.
As a young adult novel it deals in dark themes such as going into prostitution and supposed incest between Daxton and Lila Hart but this is Young ADULT so there will be that slight chance at it becoming just a little more dark than many would expect. And as a dystopian novel it's not bad, though its not refreshing to the point of standing out amongst the others in its genre either.
What you probably expect based on the reading: Kitty Doe facing day after day of government influence before being offered the chance at a better life and then working with others to begin a revolution
What you'll get: A rushed/fast paced beginning which leads straight into Kitty having to be trained to act like Lila which will last a couple of chapters. Family members who constantly try to get rid of one another, a small glimpse at the rebellious forces, a few plot twists here and there, and a somber ending.
FINAL VERDICT: 3 - 3/2 “Red Roses” While the main idea was interesting enough there could have been more focus on the society itself. If the history of how the world came to be the way it was were to be further expanded on or even just showing the readers more of it, it could add more to the book’s plot. The book is definitely more action based - dealing with what Kitty must do to convince others she is actually Lila Hart while working to escape Daxton and the plans he has for her. Character relationships do not come off too strongly yet so it’s possible the next book will add to them - of course the strongest relationship is between Benjy and Kitty which causes the book to give off the vibe of a dystopian romance more than anything else.
Other books by Aimee Carter:
The Goddess Test Series
-Reviewed by Emily A. for NARB
copy of the book obtained at Harlequin TEEN preview