on 1 June 2012
Caroline for Big Book Little Book
Copy received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The economic collapse and the petrol wars took their toll on the mental health of the nation, triggering a "Mental Health Crisis" amongst the populous of the UK. Using the new science of gene mapping the Government took the drastic step of developing a diagnostic test for the genetic mutations responsible for the "Big 3" mental health conditions; schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. Following diagnosis the population was divided in two.
Deserting the countryside as unemployment became the norm and petrol became increasing more scarce, the population took refuge in the cities. Bequeathing the now overcrowded cities to the "Crazies", the "Pure's", those without the genetic malformations, were relocated in to gated, protected communities, surrounding the city.
The "Crazies" eek out a hard existence under the constant threat that their or a family members status as "Sleeper", those with the genetic malformation who are not yet ill, they will be reclassified as "Active", those with a mental illness, and forcefully admitted in to a "Loony dump".
Despite being a talented musician and intelligent, inquisitive student, as a "Pure", Ana has had her future plotted out for her. Contrary to any personal feelings she may have on the matter Ana will complete her education, consisting of home economic and child development classes, marry her childhood crush and produce lots of "Pure" babies, continuing the "Pure" line.
Receiving the shocking news that she has been living a lie and should not be living among the "Pures". Ana accepts the conditions attached to her remaining within "the community", including undertaking regular mental heath assessments and suppressing all expression of emotion, lest she be classified as "Active" and forced to join the Crazies she has been brought up to fear. The disappearance of Jasper, her intended spouse and the man on whom her future is dependent (feminism is indeed dead), provokes Ana in to action. Action which may see her thrown out of the community she is desperate to cling to.
A number of derogatory terms, are used in relation to mental illness throughout the text, many of which I have already repeated in this review, which some people may take offence to. In defence of the author, particularly to those who are not familiar with the dystopian genre (read definition of "Dystopian" here), I believe that the use of these terms and the treatment of the mentally ill within this work is in no way an endorsement for such behaviours or discrimination. It is a reflection of the warped society in which the book is set, and that the purpose is to induce outrage on behalf of the repressed members of that society, in this case the "Crazies" and to a certain extent the "Pure" women on their comfortable, yet restrictive pedestal.
Merle certainly doesn't shy away from controversial topics. In addition to societies handling of mental illness Merle deftly touches on some interesting themes that a maturing readership may have never been exposed to before. Highlighting pharmaceutical development as big business, the questionable ethics of pharmaceutical company funded medical research and the practice prescribing of psychotropic medications to "troubled" children.
With any new fantasy, sci- fi or dystopian there is inevitably an immense amount world building and the need to introduce the fundamental elements of that world to the reader as quickly as possible. In the case of the Glimpse the author has resorted to one character giving an impromptu history lesson to another to describe the foundation on which the society is based, while this technique is a little frustrating at times I can understand and forgive the author for telling us, rather than showing us this history.
A confused science lesson about genetics had me raising an eyebrow and consulting with a friend to ensure that I had not somehow forgotten or misunderstood the basics of autosomal dominant and recessive conditions. However, the strength of this book is that once I had got beyond the information overload and confused science lesson of the first chapter, I was completely absorbed within the story and able to simply enjoy the ride.
And what a ride it was! Told in third person, and predominantly from Ana's perspective (with a few tantalising glimpses from Jasper, Cole and Dr Barber's perspectives) we observe as Ana develops from an intimidated, fearful, yet compassionate girl, to a more self aware, street smart confident woman. Along the way she comes to terms with her genetic inheritance, corrects her prejudiced misconceptions and falls in love.
I am really excited to see how Ana uses these life lessons in book two to affect a change within her society and I am hoping that we finally get introduced to the enigma that is the "Enlightenment project".
Verdict: The UK setting is not the only frighteningly familiar element of this disturbing dystopian.
on 15 July 2012
I saw the book description and it seemed like the sort of thing I'd be interested in so I thought I'd give it a go and I'm really glad I did (despite a few early misgivings). There's a bunch of descriptions out there so I'll keep mine brief - it's the future, it's London and society is separated into "the Crazies" (those identified with the genes which result in them having a mental illness)- who are kept heavily medicated, and segregated and "Pures" (those without the genes) - who live in luxury. Ana is the daughter of the man who devised the tests that separated the "Pures" from the "Crazies" and the story follows her.
- The dystopian society the author has created is fascinating, well thought out and completely plausible which makes it all the more terrifying
- Some really good characters - it's really Ana's journey and she changes the most along the way, without spoilers it's hard to say why, but her attitude changes throughout the book and it's good to read and your journey as a reader seems to mirror hers. Some of the smaller characters are also really interesting, I found myself liking Lila and Tamsin but didn't get to find out too much about them, so maybe next book!
- Ana & Cole - I liked their dynamic and relationship. Not exactly ground breaking or new but still really compelling and I enjoyed their moments together in the book.
- It's addictive - I bought this and kept reading over the course of 2 days until I finished (very annoying when work got in the way!). It gets really good and the ending leaves you wanting to read more about this society and the characters in it.
- The beginning is a bit clunky, a lot of info & exposition so it didn't grab me but you should stick with it as it picks up quite quickly.
- There are moments you have to suspend your belief more than just a little - such as the lawyer/court moments with Ana. There aren't too many of them but they don't do the book any favours...
- The technology - although sometimes quite interesting, I found some of the new technology described, a bit confusing and hard to picture. I guess if it's turned into a movie my very limited imagination will have a little help!!
The Bottom Line:
Maybe the biggest con of all is this has only just been released so I have to wait for the next one! Well worth a read!
on 14 July 2013
I really couldn't decide about this book - there were moments when I really liked it and moments when I didn't like it all that much at all. I think the main problem with "The Glimpse" is that it's been done so many times before. How many futuristic dystopian novels aimed at a YA readership can it be possible to be published? Indeed, in my opinion, I found that a lot of the stuff in this book is very much same old, same old - you've got your privileged heroine who has grown up in the lap of luxury and the boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks; I found myself thinking I've definitely read this story before.
I felt that the early part of the novel, in particular, was very weak. By the time my Kindle was registering I had read 14% of the book, I was asking myself the question, why on earth didn't Ariana just leg it to join the crazies in the first place? Life with "the pures" sounded pretty rubbish to be honest.
However, as the story progressed, I found myself enjoying it more. I liked the fact that it was set in Britain and there were some nice touches like "the boarded up Tesco" which brought the futuristic ruins of the city to life. I also liked the scenes in the Psych ward. These were very vivid and quite frightening in their portrayal. There was some good authenticity in these scenes - like the way Ariana couldn't speak properly after spending a week in a coma (a medical fact that it would be quite easy to miss if you hadn't thought about it) and I imagine that if you had ever had any issues with mental health, this would make for uncomfortable reading.
There's a clear theme in the book - a frightening futuristic prediction of how society could go if fascism was allowed to take hold. It can't be coincidence that Ariana is so named (she is the pure "aryan" genetically superior species after all). Cole's name too is indicative of his black genetic status. There was also, I felt, a nod to other YA popular series in here (Dr Cullen, for example - and the "Twilight" world of Three Mills). I might be reading too much into it, or maybe the author is just trying to be clever, but it struck me as a bit obvious to be honest.
Structurally the novel wasn't all that sound either. The plot is very action driven with the unfortunate heroine reeling from one crisis (or one escape) to the next. When she finally (FINALLY) manages to get together with Cole after the binding ceremony, the sense of relief was overwhelming - however, she then decides she's got to go back to her father's house YET AGAIN - I must admit I found myself cringing with irritation at her. It certainly didn't make for a smooth reading experience. AND on top of all that - I found typos in the book - for example: Ariana was lent some clothing on p. 117 - however the author has spelt this "leant" as in leaning on something. This is just shoddy. When a novel reaches this stage, it should be as polished as it is possible to be, and clearly this isn't.
Finally, back to the scene at the binding - did it strike anyone else as redolent of the scene from The Graduate? It was a bit too close for comfort, in my opinion, and not entirely original.
I thought there was some good examples of writing in this - there were some lovely phrases particularly relating to the Ariana's burgeoning romance (e.g. "...why did she feel such a pull? Like he was the moon and she was the sea", but it wasn't that polished, it wasn't that well structured and it was just more of the same old, same old. I don't really know why this has been deemed original enough to be published. Don't think I'll bother with the sequel. I couldn't stand Ariana being forced to escape from anywhere else, primarily due to her own stupidity.
on 28 May 2012
In the not too distant future, the genetic mutations for all mental illnesses have been identified. In order to protect the human race, Pure communities have been set up, where only those who pass the Pure test can live and continue their genetic heritage by starting families. The Carriers and Sleepers must live in the City and are medicated by the state. Those who become Active are rounded up by the Psyche Watch and sent to mental institutions. Ana is a Pure, awaiting the day she will become bound to Jasper.
After a shaky start, The Glimpse turned out pretty fantastic. But first impressions count and the setting of the scene was a little awkward and rushed in an attempt to get a few key facts across. It's reliant on a quick tell instead of a show, Ana is a Pure, her mother died, she remembers seeing her mother in hospital and not recognising her, that she requested a death certificate and now she is found out, her mother committed suicide, she is not Pure, her father faked the results and he happens to be the geneticist who invented the Pure test. And breathe. It's a lot of information to be thrown at you in the first chapter and it is done a little clumsily. Perhaps the narrative mirrors Ana's slow realisation that she's been brought up to believe what she's told because as the story continues, the writing becomes about more about showing what's going on instead of telling the reader. Something that might have come across better in a first person narrative.
However, I don't want to dwell too long on the poor start. I decided I'd give it a bit more of my time even though I wasn't expecting much and I was very much proved wrong. What at first seems like just another dystopian teen novel, starts to unravel and explore the horrors of eugenics. Because the Pure system is a eugenics program, where only those consider genetically superior can breed and get the best jobs and homes. Just like the eugenics carried out in America in the 20th century, many thought they were doing no harm and what they were doing would help everyone in the long run. In the City, the underclass are controlled by drugs and patrols but they somehow seem more normal and have more freedom than Ana at least. But there's another layer, the seedy underbelly of the future government of England.
In the early stages of the book, where Ana still believes in the world she has been brought up in, there are a few things that I thought didn't make sense. The beauty of this book is that they're not meant to as Ana discovers more about the world, this discrepancies become clear. For instance there is a four year old boy who is depressed and suicidal and we are told this is not uncommon amongst the crazies. Not enough time has passed for this to be something that have evolved so I questioned it...but everything will make sense, I promise.
I also enjoyed the fact that it was set in London in around 30 years time. There was a lot that was recognisable to me and helped make the world of The Glimpse, utterly believable. The rest of the world hasn't been forgotten about either, but they're not in a very good state.
There's a lot to think about, including segregation and the atrocities than humans manage to repeat throughout history. It's hard to talk about eugenics without thinking about the Holocaust and there is some of the book that may be uncomfortable reading, especially if you realise these things are not a figment of someone's imagination.
on 30 April 2014
I bought this book because its premise sounded interesting: people are divided according to their mental health status as determined by genetics and it's set in the near future. I wasn't sure how the mental health thing would pan out, but it certainly sounded original.
Unfortunately, I found it hard to warm to this book. The main character, Ana, is revealed to be uncertain of her privileged status very early on, so we don't get a good picture of what the advantages of that privileged society might be. Jasper is thrown at us in a series of flashbacks, which, combined with the occasional switch in voice and inconsistent characterisation - of Ana's father, for example - makes things rather confusing.
But it was the writing style that gave me the biggest problem. It's written in short, staccato sentences, with a lot of obvious imagery and repetition of both words and concepts. Ideas that would have been easier to understand in action or character are spelt out laboriously via dialogue. In some ways, the writing style reminded me of that often used with a much younger audience (10-12yrs), but the subject matter means it's not actually aimed at that group.
Perhaps it's me being especially pernickety about the writing style, and other readers would bounce over the uneven delivery and over-explanation. It could just be a quick and easy read for people interested in dystopian romance. But not for me.
on 23 August 2013
Most of my experience with reading this book was a short 'meh' every so often. The concept was very interesting, which is why I bought the book, but I just feel like the book didn't convey that interesting subject choice in a good way, not at least until the end.
Throughout the book I was finding myself asking questions like, why is this happening, why is the main character doing this, what am I supposed to care about? It wasn't that it was a bad book, just I was neither interested nor disinterested while reading the book. The start of the book feels quite clunky and uninspiring. Towards the middle, I wasn't sure what the relevance of 'the glimpse' was and really what the character who saw the glimpse was aiming towards.
The end of the book, the last few chapters, now that was a much more interesting story. Systematic torture and the psychological fallout of that? That was something that I could actually feel for and it was only here that I started to feel for any of the characters at all.
All in all, I wouldn't exactly recommend this book, but I wouldn't sway someone away from it either.
on 1 June 2015
Really disappointing - I've read most of the YA/dystopian trilogies and this had great reviews, but although the concept was good, the book was let down by the writing and the lack of character development - you know where the author wanted to go with it, but frankly the characters were too one-dimensional that you didn't really care about them, so rather than being dramatic it fell flat. Was so bored I didn't bother bringing it home and left it in the hotel, which is v rare for me. Such a shame, but maybe teens would like it.
on 21 May 2012
Lots of my friends have been asking me recently why I am so attracted to dystopian or post apocalyptic novels. I was thinking long and hard about it, and at the same time I just happened to be reading The Glimpse (squeeee!), the debut novel from Claire Merle. That's when I realized that books like The Glimpse is why I read dystopian fiction.
Set in a future London, Ana finds out that she's been lied to - she's not a Pure, like she thought, but a Sleeper, not quite free of any genetic illness, and almost finds herself outside of the Community, with the people she's been taught to know as the Crazies. She's been promised to Jasper, the son of a wealthy and influential man. The authorities decide that as long as Ana is bound to Jasper by her 18th birthday, then she can stay within the Community. Then Jasper goes missing right after their initial Binding, and Ana's determined to find him, even if it means heading outside of the Community and into the harsh reality that is the world, which is full of secrets that were meant to be kept hidden.
I cannot get over the fact how much I absolutely LOVED this book. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to scream out, "See? I told you so! I knew it was good!" I'd been waiting for The Glimpse since I first heard of it, and nearly died when Claire let me have an early e-copy of the book. Luckily I didn't otherwise I wouldn't have been able to read the awesomeness that is this book.
Okay, pause gushing for a while. Why should you read this book?
I've heard a lot of people say that they don't want to even read the first page after hearing that mental illness is a big part of this book. Which it is. And it's actually a part of it that I loved. What made this book different from all the other dystopian YA fiction out there is the fact that Claire takes a real life issue - one that is prevalent in today's society and projects it into the future. Who's not to say that in the future genetics won't be a catalyst for the way society is shaped?
The Glimpse focuses on how Ana, who has grown up as a Pure, learns about what is outside of the sheltered world she's grown up in. It also shows how indoctrine and ideals of a government can be forced upon people - and how easily we'll accept it as true. If the higher powers say it is, then what's to say it's not? And this is what Ana is learning. It's her development, and quite frankly, I find it all a bit too close to home.
Ana is a character that I fell in love with straight away. She's a no nonsense kind of girl, and she's ruled by both her heart and her head, which makes it hard for her to choose between what she's always known, and what she knows is right. She's strong, but at the same time she will do as she's told - as we find out in the beginning - but then sometimes, you just have to let go and follow your heart, which is what she does.
And then there's Cole. Oh Cole, you reached out of my computer screen, grabbed my heart and twisted it. I fell, and I fell hard. That is all.
I've often read books that I must totally read right now otherwise I will explode and die and then how is the author going to explain that one, huh? and they turn out to be somewhat disappointing because of all the hype you've been building up over it. But The Glimpse did not disappoint AT ALL! Fast paced, full of action, this was one book that left me hanging on to every word. Just as soon as you've figured it all out, one of the characters jumps out and whacks the book over your head and says "Ha! Fooled you! Keep on guessing sucka!" Actually, not really, but you get the drift.
So if you know what's good for you, then get this book. It will change everything you've ever thought about the future. A wonderfully breathtaking read that will scare the pants off you at how realistic it is.
A very very big five out of five from me!
on 30 December 2012
I bought this book after reading some interesting reviews about it, I was intrigued by the blurb and seeing as I like to occasionally dip my toes in the dystopian pool I went ahead and got it.
I was aware that some people had a problem with the whole Pure and Crazies idea, finding it offensive towards those with mental health issues - I honestly didn't have any problems with this (and I do have personal experience of mental health issues so I understand the subject very well), in my eyes it was fictional and I enjoyed it for what it was.
I admit that I struggled with the first few pages purely because I couldn't quite grasp what was going on. It was based in a future England which had been divided into the Pures and Crazies, they lived separately and very differently! I was fascinated by the binding and joining ceremonies, I loved this alternative and creative idea of marriage.
Ana was kind of caught in the middle of being Pure and being a Crazy but as her life spiraled out of control she seemed to grow in strength and confidence - I love it when a character finds themselves in the most unexpected of places. There were many lies and dark secrets for Ana to uncover and as she did so she became much more determined not to be dictated to. Her time in Three Mills Psych Centre was unpleasant and difficult to read at times but it gave the storyline a gritty edge that I hadn't expected.
The romance side of the story was simple but beautiful, it felt natural yet exciting - forbidden love is always a favourite of mine when I'm reading. It ended on a cliffhanger and I can't wait to see what happens for Ana in the next book.
This was a refreshingly different and exciting book which had me completely caught up in its pages.
on 4 July 2012
This book could have been brilliant. I kept waiting for it to get better but it failed to live up to my expectations. The main character, Ariana, was annoying and the rest of the characters were never truly explored which, considering the length of the book, was a shame. I was expecting an action packed adventure but instead it was more of a damp squib. The technologies were written about in a way which made me think that the author wasn't exactly technically minded. If half of the waffle was trimmed away and replaced with a plot and more character development I would have rated this much more highly. Very disappointing. I've read better books in the free section.