(review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/14787.html)
Even before Calico made this her Dare read for the month of July, I wanted to read this book. I had come across her original review for it on her blog and she gave it her highest rating. Then, back in December, the book store got it in and had it on special for $4.99, so I immediately picked it up. It's been languishing on my TBR ever since, so I was glad to have a chance to read it sooner rather than later.
I am SO GLAD I read this sooner rather than later because this is seriously one of the best books I have read this year. Actually, I'd go as far as to say that this book ranks in my top ten favorite books of all time now, it was that good. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
To start, this is one of the most original books I have ever read. It's set in a futuristic United States, specifically at the border between the U.S. and Mexico in a part of the country that has been deemed to no longer exist, thus the citizens inside no longer legally exist either, giving them no rights. Then, we have genetically modified humans, (the main character Loup being an offspring of one) who have super-human like powers, such as super strength and the inability to feel fear. THEN, we have a group of orphans (who the main is also a part of) committing acts of vigilantism in order to raise the moral of Outpost no. 12 (where they live) because their tired of being treated like crap. FINALLY, we throw in some boxing, just for good measure.
It's seriously unlike anything I've ever read before. All these elements seem completely unrelated and strange on their own, but when you put them all together, Carey somehow makes it work really, really well.
Loup, our main character for most of the novel, is easily one of my favorite "bad-ass" heroines of all time. She has amazing fighting skills and can drop pretty much anyone, but she doesn't have the snarky attitude of most "bad-ass" heroines; she's extremely genuine, which makes her extremely likable. Her ignorance, when it came to people's emotions caused by her inability to feel fear, was also extremely well-handled. Despite having these un-human qualities, Loup was also so achingly human. She doesn't feel fear, no, but she's empathetic of other people, even when she doesn't completely understand, and she IS lonely, being the only of her kind until she meets others at the end of the novel, giving her a vulnerable side to contrast her near-invincibility.
Loup's relationships with those around her is what really makes this book work for me. Loup and her brother Tom, Loup and the Santitos, Loup and Pilar, Loup and Miguel... they were all wonderfully developed and touching and sad in some ways (especially with Tommy and Pilar) and I loved it all. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about her and Pilar, because it initially felt like Pilar was just dating Loup because of her sexual attraction to her (actually, I'm sure that was the point), but when Pilar broke up with Loup the way she did, and her explanation and reasons for doing it.... it broke my heart and it was then I realized how totally invested I had become in them. Loup and Miguel was great because it really helped develop Miguel as a flawed human being, as opposed to some typical antagonistic asshole. With the Santitos, like Anna and the French Kiss, these secondary characters felt like real people, as opposed to just being extras on the sideline. They had life, and everyone played an important part in creating Santa Olivia for the people to believe in. Ugh, it was seriously just all beautiful. And finally, her and Tom had one of the best sibling-relationships I've ever read in a novel before. The way they looked out for each other and loved each other was so nice and made me feel all warm and fuzzy. When Tommy died, I felt horrible and just wanted to jump into the pages and give Loup a hug or something.
Final Verdict: I wish I had more to say about this book, but it would all just come up as gushy fan-girliness because I seriously loved this book so much. It has one of the most unique settings I've ever read in a novel and takes all kinds of different elements (genetically modified super-humans, boxing, vigilantism, among other things) and puts them together so well that I couldn't believed they all worked in harmony. It's got one of the most sympathetic heroines I've ever read, despite being almost completely unrelatable because of her genetic modifications. Her relationship with all the people around her is absolutely amazing to read, and because of this, all the secondary characters in this novel are extremely well developed. I seriously loved every minute of this novel and I can't wait to read the sequel, Saints Astray, which is due to come in November. If you want something completely different that has a lot of heart, for the love of god, pick this up.