State of Grace

by Hilary Badger

Reviewed by SA

Oh my Dot this book is good.

Fair warning: this book is very different from what you’ve ever read before, but in the greatest way possible. It’s one of those books that tries to defy definition, definitely already defying labeling (is it utopian? Dystopian? Science Fiction? WHAT IS IT) and still making my mind spin. Think Margret Atwood meets Brave New World, with some Drugs thrown in. It is strange, it is beautiful, and it is amazing.

Summary

Ever since she was created, Wren has lived in an idyllic garden with her friends. Wren’s deity Dot ensures the trees are laden with fruit and the water in the lagoon is crystal clear. Wren and her friends have everything they could possibly need right there, in Dot’s Paradise.
If only Wren could stop the strange, disturbing visions she’s started having. Do these visions make her less worthy of Dot’s love? And what does Blaze, the most beautiful and mysterious of Dot’s creations, know about what’s going on in Wren’s head?
Wren is desperate to feel Dot’s love, just like everyone else. But that’s harder than ever when a creation she’s never met before arrives in the garden. He claims to be from outside and brings with him words and ideas that make Wren’s brain hurt.

First of all: I got this summary from Goodreads, as I always do, but I cut it short. Do not read the full Goodreads summary! It spoils a major plot twist that is in the last one hundred or even fifty pages, so to avoid the spoilers, avoid the full summary. It’s under the cut so you should all be ok. This has been a public service announcement.

The first chapter had me rolling on the floor laughing, sending IMs to my boyfriend about how “ridiculous my new book is”. It seems as though you’re thrown into a nudist colony, or a hippie retreat, with ideas of free love and bathing nude with infantile names for genitalia. I was ready to put it down right there – what possible drama can you have in a nudist colony? (Note to self – write nudist colony rom com). But then, things started to change. My IMs stopped, and I became fully engrossed in the novel.

What changed? Wren did. Our main character, a lovely young lady who loves her creator, Dot, and her friends, and her idyllic life, begins to have doubts. She slowly starts to see through it all, and she begins to see the world differently. As she does, our opinion of her world changes too, and we see the utopia  less and less as the perfect, tiny world it claims to be. It’s slow and gradual, not an immediate transition, which really allows the reader to follow Wren down the rabbit hole, so to speak.

If you take the religious plot, the one that takes place outside of Wren’s head, it seems like a strange concept for a YA indeed: a loving deity named Dot dropped her creations off, brand new and fresh and fully grown, inside a small beautiful universe, along with the books that guide their belief, and a new language that removes all negativity (prelight for dark, precalm for scared). Every day, her creations will sing to her in the gazebo, pick the newfruit (the only one they shouldn’t eat, I see Eden in here somewhere) and give it as an offering to their loving goddess, then they ride horseback, swim in the lagoon, hook up freely. It’s now almost one year later, and the excitement grows for “Completion Night”, the night where Dot will chose her favorite creations. But as this time draws near, tensions rise: Gil claims to be Dot’s mouthpiece, and believes their world is infected with unholy things, and leads a witch hunt to purify it all before the big night.

But Wren is changing: she begins with a certain belief in Dot, but slowly, this belief is getting cracked and crumbling. When Dennis, an outsider, accidentally gets stuck inside their perfect world, she is sure he is a test from Dot… but Blaze, the only other person who seems to be ‘waking up’ around her, has other theories. Slowly the paradise fades: the songs become more annoying, the hooking up more ridiculous. I was amazed at how the author really started to pull us away from the perfection she created: It was skillful writing, and probably why I liked this book so much.

It’s slowly paces, but in the best way possible. It allows the intrigue to develop, and allows the ready to grow anxious over what’s going to happen next. What is this world? If it’s not Eden, then what is it? Why are they really there? And why is it that Wren and Blaze don’t see it like anybody else?

The ending will leave you breathless. The entire last hundred pages or so cut a sharp contract with the rest of the book, speeding up, answering questions, even breaking your heart. What an amazing book, it’s something completely new that no one is soon to forget.

State of Grace comes out today, September 1st. It would be presmart not to read it.

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