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  • ACID
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4.4 out of 5 stars55
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 2 June 2013
This is a thrill ride of a book, which hooks the reader quickly and fully delivers on its promise of excitement.

I'm sure some of you who are YA readers are going "I've done the dystopian thing; I'm over it now" but I would urge you to give this one a go. Yes, there are elements which you'll have read before (but I would strongly argue that any story which works is constructed using familiar elements) - the main character against the system, dark forces moving against her, mystery and uncertainty about characters' motivations - but it's also tightly written and refreshingly different in some (to me) indefinable way. Perhaps it's in the way it's put together, perhaps it's the UK setting; I'm not sure, but it is an excellent novel, recommended even to the dystopia-weary. Those of you concerned about sameness in YA novels will definitely want to know that Acid is love-triangle-free.

Our protagonist, Jenna, is tough and smart - as the only female prisoner in a high-security facility for murderers, she's had to be. It's clear from the start that the crime which saw her incarcerated here is problematic, but we are drip-fed these details adding to the tension. The story starts on its feet, all action and no pulled punches, and this is the pitch we operate at pretty much throughout. It helps that Emma Pass knows her world intimately and leads us through it effectively. We learn exactly what we need to, precisely when we need to with her perfectly judged world-building. I hate things being over-explained or the dreaded info-dump - there isn't a whiff of that here.

I warmed to Jenna quite quickly and found it easy to be on her side. The swift-moving first person present tense narration helps this along, of course - we're right in her perspective, so can't help but understand how she sees things. There are points in the story where things are clearer to the reader than they are to Jenna, which further adds to the tension as those twists and turns keep coming. She's established quickly as someone to admire and not as a victim, holding her own against male inmates.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this one as a pacy, tense read which is extremely difficult to put down.
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on 21 May 2013
ACID is the rare true dystopian novel where the heroine is kickass and takes orders from no one. From the very first chapter, it's clear that Jenna Strong is the very center of a web of lies, whose repercussions reach much farther than the life of one girl. Emma Pass takes readers down a twisty path of discovery, each turn more horrifying - and illuminating - than the last.

Jenna Strong was a refreshing change of voice from typical YA - she was one hundred percent sure of herself (except when she was around Max, at which point she was only 99.9% sure of herself.) Sometimes, she didn't know what was true, what her goals were, or even what she wanted, but she knew that protecting herself and sticking with those who needed her was the ultimate goal, deserving of all the fight she had in her. And that fight was a LOT.

I loved that Jenna herself was an unreliable narrator, not knowing her true identity for part of the book or the bigger system at work for most it. Despite that, her instincts of self-preservation never waned. Emma Pass's creation of a character who could be broken and shifted and changed again and again yet still maintain that essential kernal of personality was incredible.

But, in the end, this is the story of a girl learning to trust and love others enough that she stays behind to fight for them. The true heart of ACID is not Jenna breaking ribs of grown men and making them sob (which she does frequently,) or in toppling the stunningly-drawn Orwellian dystopia. It's discovering that, though her well-being and freedom should be her first priority, working as a team, standing up for the defenseless, and letting herself love others is just as important.

Though ACID is not available in the US yet, was happy to send me a copy, for not much more than a paperback in the US. But, should you decide to hold off on reading until it's released in the US (sometime in January, I think), rest assured that it will be well worth the wait.
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on 6 May 2013
ACID starts out strong--with a 17 year old bad girl who can take on fully grown, perverted men, and an epic prison break. I LOVED how Jenna kicked some serious butt and wasn't afraid to stand up for herself. Then things immediately get moving with a prison break and Jenna is whisked away by mysterious "good samaritans". The author feeds us some sneak peaks of what is to come, and promises us information and background story! ....which we don't get until about 250 pages later.

The problem with ACID is that the questions just kept building and building, until we finally got answers 150 pages from the end, but at that point I had already guessed all the answers anyway. I hate it when you don't have that moment of clarity and understanding along with the main character. I hate it when the main character has to catch up to you. I knew the answers (or at least strongly suspected), but then she found out hundreds of pages later and was like OH MY GOD! And I was like "Way ahead of you, girlie."

So, in the beginning we get fed our questions, but before we get the answers we are treated to: a long "prisoners on the run" sequence, a half-developed love interest, and an entirely useless 75 pages of "My memory has been wiped" before the grand finale. (You could have cut out those 75 pages and still understood the book completely.)

There were a lot of interesting ideas in ACID but they don't get as fleshed out as I would have liked. Overall we're left with a pretty vague sense of the future and what London is like, and we have ZERO sense of what the rest of the world is like (what's going on with the US or the rest of Europe?). However, there are a few cool snippets in the book that I did really like, including news articles, transcripts between ACID agents, and letters. They were an interesting and different way of presenting information, even if they did feel a bit random at times.

But so many of the events in ACID just felt random and strung together, rather than seamlessly intertwined.

If I had to compare ACID to another book, I would pick Delirium by Lauren Oliver or Matched by Ally Condie. ACID has a very similar vibe, with a futuristic world, a corrupt government, government-sponsored matchmaking, and completely controlled lives (you get told when you can have a baby, what job you will have, etc.). And then we have the rebellion aspect.

Ultimately, ACID ended up being only okay. So many parts of it felt half developed, unnecessary, or just waned entirely (like Jenna's badassness). Other than the beginning--which I thought was awesome--I didn't particularly love any part of this book... although I didn't particularly hate any parts either. It was just.. 'meh'.
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on 3 June 2013
Unputdownable is an overused word, but in this case it's true. As soon as I opened the first page, I couldn't stop reading ACID. It has all the hallmarks of a great thriller - a feisty heroine, non-stop action and a dark conspiracy at its centre. Set in a near-future UK that's scarily realistic, the story follows 16-year-old Jenna Strong as she tries to stay one step ahead of the law, and in doing so, learns the truth about the government - and herself. Anyone who appreciates a truly kick-ass MC and can handle nail-biting tension will love this book!
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Acid was a breath of fresh air. I had been bemoaning the quality of dystopian YA fiction released recently and if it wasn't for Dan Well's Partials series, I would have given up on buying it so I was hoping Acid would deliver and for the most part it did.
Jenna Strong is kick-ass. A 17 year old girl accused of murdering her parents, she is sent to the toughest and scariest all-male prison in Britain after being tried and convicted as an adult. She learns pretty quickly to defend herself against the many pervs wanting to take advantage and has moulded herself into one deadly weapon. When her only friend in the prison risks his life to break her out, she must uncover the secrets from her past in order to survive.
I loved the setting of Acid, it was refreshing to read about a murky, harsh, future in Britain rather than America. For me it made things seem more "real" as I could recognise place names and had walked down the same streets that Jenna walked. The A(gency) C(rime) I(nvestigation) D(efence) police state really reminded me of a late 90′s show called "Dark Angel" starring Jessica Alba. The brutal tactics, laws and sectors of the IRB (Independent Republic of Britain) were frightening and Pass did a good job of unveiling a totalitarian corrupt world where people who step out of line are brutally put back in place. Everything is regulated down to choice of "Life-Partner", when a child can be born and what job they can have. Overall I thought the world building was quite strong, I would have liked a little more but in comparison to recent rival books it was great. Pass uses newspaper articles and bulletins to give the reader an overview of how the world is run and I thought this was a really interesting and unique way to get the point across.
Jenna was a great MC that I couldn't help but root for. She was brave, loyal and sympathetic. At times I grew frustrated by how willing she was to go with the flow and accept her surroundings but I assume that was due to her background which is explained in the book. I loved the character of Max, with whom Jenna builds a friendship with whilst on the run and the other secondary characters whilst we didn't get to know them as well I thought were well rounded and interesting.
Plot wise: I thought the story was really unique and original however about two-thirds of the way through it proved problematic as the reader is immediately aware of a plot twist for the character where her memory is affected which holds no suspense as we always know she will get her memory back. The use of re-constructive surgery was also a bit irksome for me as the tech seemed a little too unbelievably advanced despite the futuristic setting and it seemed a little too "convenient" to move the plot along. I thought the writing was superb I just felt that at times the plot was too rushed and I would have enjoyed more explanation into how the society came about and more mention of the outside world.
Overall, I thought Acid was edgy, fun and un-put-down-able at times and I'm excited to read more from this début author.
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I'll admit I'd not heard of this until I heard that a library colleague in our area wrote it.
So of course I would show solidarity and read it! It sounded like a good concept - I enjoy dystopian YA fiction.

I would compare ACID to the Uglies/Pretties/Specials trilogy by Scott Westerfeld as well as the obligatory Hunger Games books. Fans of either will probably enjoy this.

And I must say - well done Emma! Jenna Strong is just that - a strong character, good role model and likeable narrator.

She's undergone trials - the death of her parents (at her own hands), incarceration in an all-male prison, but is coping well with what life and ACID (a fascist-like police force) have thrown at her.

The world of the have and have-nots, of extreme wealth and poverty have made appearances in many books. In ACID they are vivid and easy to picture.

There are a few twists along the way (none of which are jaw-droppers but that's not the point of the story), a few coincidences (people and places 'just so happening' to be present when they're needed for the story.

I read the whole book in a day, and enjoyed it all the way through. The book could be taken further or left as a stand-alone.

Oh and I loved the fact that there's a scene with a public library in it - knowledge is always power, even in a police state!

Great debut, hope it does well.
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on 21 February 2015
Being a dystopian standalone… it’s fair to say I had my doubts. To include world building (in a way that wasn’t just annoying/boring info-dumps), plus character development, plus world “destroying” with a satisfying conclusion – looks to be an impressive feat. However I needn’t have worried because Acid managed it all flawlessly.

Dystopias are hit or miss for me. If it works and captures my attention from start to finish I can rave about it all day, but if I’m bored or doubt its authenticity then it can kiss my ass goodbye! This book was definitely the former with an intense and action-packed plot, plus original and tough characters; I couldn’t fault it!

What won me over is one bad-ass heroine called Jenna. She’s tough like no one’s business; something we’re made to recognise from the get go and I also loved reading about how she wasn’t always like that. We see glimpses further on in the book when certain things happen… and she isn’t completely herself, let’s say. We also see a more vulnerable side when she’s around Max. The romance between the two doesn’t take centre-stage, and is often overlooked yet the chemistry is undeniable.

Granted, at times I did find it predictable with coincidences left-right-and-centre, though that’s often the best way to keep the story moving along, particularly when it’s incredibly fast paced. I was so engrossed that I rarely stopped (unless I had no choice) to think about what was going to happen next, and that made me appreciate the plot twists more. Because boy where there many!

One thing I didn’t expect was right at the end, when everything was concluding nicely and suddenly a curveball was thrown in the mix! The nerve… Those 3 lines have opened it up for a sequel (which I don’t think is coming) and I just can’t work my head around whether I’d want one or not! That’s not to say I won’t be looking out for more from Emma Pass in the future.

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on 30 September 2014
I’m generally not a big fan of futuristic or apocalyptic novels as they just seem a bit too dark for me but I have fairly recently started a love affair with YA fiction, so I thought I would check Acid out. And I can say, I’m glad I did.

It’s set 100 years in the future and we find Jenna in prison and a very hard nut of a girl. It all seems very bleak, but she’s not in there long before she’s broken out and her life changes. She doesn’t understand why and neither do we as the reader because it’s told in first person present tense narrative so we only ever know what Jenna knows. There’s no flipping between viewpoints to fill us in at any point, we really are sitting with Jenna the whole way. And it’s a roller-coaster ride for her because life is difficult 100 years from now and for a girl trying to stay out of the authorities way after the prison break she has to make some rapid decisions that land her in some difficult predicaments.

I thought it was well drawn and I could easily see the image of the future that Pass wanted us in. Some of the political areas of how the country changes were scary in the way that you could maybe see small aspects of how changes like that could occur.

It’s a fairly long book for a YA and at times I thought the adventure was going on a little too long and became a little confusing from Jenna’s point of view, but I still wanted to see where it ended so kept reading.

It’s a book that keeps you on your toes and turning the pages. I liked the world building and the characters Pass had created. I enjoyed them and stayed with the novel because of that. The denouement was suitably dramatic and had me glued to my sofa when I should have been doing other things. I refused to move until I’d finished the book.

If you’re happy to contain your disbelief and enjoy a romp in a futuristic YA world then you’ll enjoy this book.
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It’s the year 2113. After years of financial crises drove Britain to the point of collapse, ACID (the police force) took over, taking Britain out of the EU and closing it off from the rest of the world. 17-year-old Jenna Strong’s parents were part of the elite and she enjoyed a privileged life in London right up until she accidentally killed them. For the last two years she’s been in Mileway Maximum Security Prison but during a prison riot, she discovers that the prison doctor is part of a group willing to do anything to get her out – even if it means sacrificing themselves.

Now on the run, she wants to know what the group has planned for her. But answers are slow in coming and there’s danger on all sides, not least from the prison doctor’s son – who’s been convinced by ACID propaganda that Jenna killed his father during her escape …

Emma Pass’s YA dystopian novel is a so-so affair that takes the elements common to the genre (a kick-ass female main character, obligatory romance and brutal, totalitarian regime) but doesn’t really do anything new with them. It’s very much a book about identity and Jenna has three of them in the course of this book, which actually made it difficult for me to empathise with her. This is compounded by her actions in the final quarter of the book, which are supposed to be noble but are actually driven by selfishness and stupidity. I also found the romance unconvincing, mainly because Max is underdeveloped and he and Jenna don’t really have any conversations to justify the relationship. There are some interesting ideas in the book – I particularly liked the creepy Jacob and his group of anarchists but the plot line is over too quickly without really exploring the implications. Ultimately it’s an okay read and I kept turning the pages but while there’s potential for a sequel here, I wouldn’t rush to read it (although I would read Pass’s other work).

Given that the book is named after the police force, I wanted to discover more about how they and the totalitarian regime operated. Unfortunately, the regime is broad brushstrokes at best and the main two-dimensional and I actually kinda wished that the plot had been spread over more than one book to give the world building more room to breathe.
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on 20 April 2014
Some reviews and comments I'd read led me to go into this book with expectations completely different from what it actually was. That wasn't a bad thing at all. This is a dystopia, more than it's a prison-break book. In a near-future vision of Britain that reminded me oddly of V for Vendetta - not for the plot, but for the setting, somehow - Jenna Strong has been imprisoned for two years after she confessed to killing her parents. She still has eighty-odd years of the sentence ahead of her, and being the only female prisoner in a high-security facility has hardened her to the point where she beats up a grown creeper almost as soon as we meet her. She is then sprung from prison and ends up on the run from ACID - the police/totalitarian government - under a secret identity, attempting to protect the son of the man who saved her.

There were several really good elements - in my view - to this book. The pace is break-neck much of the time, making the book more than a bit difficult to put down. The inclusion of newsfeeds, transcripts of ACID agent communications, letters, etc. could've easily cluttered up the book and maybe for some they will. For me, the newsfeeds helped flesh out the world and all the little snippets helped up the tension by foreshadowing and introducing threats that would've seemed much more abrupt if we'd been presented solely with the narrow first-person point of view. These little interruptions in the narrative, I feel, helped strengthen it overall and add to the looming, menacing feeling of ACID's presence, turning it into almost a character in itself.

The pacing is fast, but could perhaps have been managed better. While I do like it when books give you a chance to figure things out before the characters (and feel clever when you find out you were right), it should be timed so the reader's realisation comes right before the characters. Otherwise you end up rolling your eyes and wishing they'd just stop being stupid and get it already. Perhaps it's a bit heavy-handed on the hints, and of course, I can't say how much of this was or wasn't intended, but I feel that for all its fast pace, some parts could've been shortened or cut out entirely, while others could've very well been dwelt on longer and fleshed out more.

Jenna herself is tough but likeable, strong, paranoid and cheeky, all things that make sense given her background. While I liked her character a lot, her abilities became a bit inconsistent to me. I'd been introduced to a heroine who could kick arse while on the verge of collapse from poisoning, but then she starts losing fights far too easily. And, of course, the amnesia sequence is completely at odds with the character I'd known up until that point, but then I suppose that was the point. As much as the inconsistencies bothered me, though, they were nowhere near enough to make me dislike the book or the character, or pull down the rating much.

Pretty much every character who is not Jenny could've been fleshed out more. Max especially. While I liked him and had some sense of who he was, I never really felt like I knew him, and some of his later motivations are rushed just a bit too much. This lack of characterisation, ultimately, is one of the main reasons I only gave the book four stars, but then I very rarely give any book the full five.

Some of the settings are so crisp and clear I could sink into them, but I felt Outer London could've been eerier. Perhaps it's because Jenna is strong and mostly fearless, but I think the time we spend in the slums lacks a sense of urgency and menace to match the spoken descriptions we get of the place later on. The library sequence, on the other hand, was brilliant. Perhaps it's because I love libraries, but that setting was amazing and completely clear in my mind's eye, as was the sense of the web slowly closing in.

The romance was quite well done. It wasn't insta-love, and the way most of the real, deep realisations seemed to come after the separation made the sense of regret believable and understandable, and added to the urgency both I and Jenna felt for the reunion. However, Jenna's initial vow to never fall in love again could've been done better. I feel it should've either been emphasised more and have led to a larger internal struggle, or it should've been omitted completely. As it is, it feels like an unnecessary afterthought.

The coincidence of the communication 'Jess' accidentally reads was, I felt, the only real instance of 'too much coincidence'. It bugged me a bit, but wasn't anywhere near as bad as a full deus ex machina.

All in all, it was a solid, if flawed, read, and I liked it a lot. It kept me reading to the end, and kept me wanting to go back to it whenever I had put it down. I liked Jenna, I felt for her and wanted her to succeed, and I hope this vision of the future never does come true. Would definitely recommend it to others, although I would be a bit wary of giving it to younger teens; it's more than a bit brutal in places.
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