My first contact with Liverpool writer and musician Anthony Ergo was when he followed me on Twitter after I mentioned that I would be attending London’s first ever YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention). He was releasing his debut novel Dystopia at the event and I knew that I would have to pick up a copy. As an added bonus to a music and book blogger, Anthony was selling his band’s EP I Can See You Now with the book, so naturally I bought both!
Dystopia is a paranormal adventure story with a strong-willed female protagonist, Sasha Hunter who seems to be constantly stalked by bad luck. On her thirteenth birthday, Dystopia Day occurs. The whole world blacks out for thirteen seconds to catastrophic results and Sasha’s mother disappears. Three years on, the world is still recovering and Sasha discovers secrets about her father’s mysterious line of work and the trouble he is about to find himself in. Driven by loyalty to her father and a burning curiosity to delve deeper into a strange hidden world of darkness and danger, Sasha uncovers powers of her own and begins to put together a picture of who she really is.
Sasha is definitely one of the most likeable female protagonists that I’ve come across in YA literature in a long time. She is insecure and naive but passionate and focused. A self-confessed loner who suffers with severe asthma, Sasha is a very real girl dealing with her real problems within the bizarre world in which she is thrown into. Having a female lead in a dystopian who isn’t the picture of health is really refreshing. Not only does she have to deal with the dangerous supernatural beings that she encounters but the fact that something as simple as shortage of breath could kill her gives her a vulnerability that is easier for some readers to tap into than a perfectly fit, intelligent girl that is so common in YA dystopians. It was also really great to read a novel written by a man with a female lead that has both beauty and brains!
For most of the book, there are hints of a love triangle about to take place between Sasha and her father’s co-workers Aaron and Zara. The final chapter reveals that this triangle isn’t about to continue through the series though, which sets it apart from other novels in the genre. A common trope of YA fiction is budding romance and conflict around that. Although Dystopia has the growing love between Sasha and Aaron, by the end you realise that their relationship is no longer under any threat and so it is left to blossom, tying it up very neatly before the action continues into the second book. Both Aaron and Zara are great characters -Aaron is a gym-loving teenager with a big ego but the power to understand the feelings and emotions of others, while Zara is yet another strong-minded girl who gets things done and doesn’t take any nonsense with the useful skill of being able to see into the future. The dynamics between the two of them and Sasha is one of great friendship and they can use and play off each other’s strengths. At the end of the book, you get the sense of a great familial bond between them that hope doesn’t break.
Dystopia is full of selfless believable characters in a fast-paced plot with plenty of tension and the odd twist every now and then. Think of it as Supernatural in a YA setting. Fighting evil to save the innocent and solving the mystery that was Dystopia Day alongside a likeable cast is a ride that you won’t want to get off of and as the sequel Hysteria is out in October, you won’t have to be off for long!