Friday, December 7, 2012

We Are Savages by Jesse Atkin

Title: We Are Savages
Author: Jesse Atkin

Published: November 17th, 2012, by Brady and Dustin Publishing
Genre: Childrens, Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Reviewer: Hannah


12-year-old Tris has never been a girly-girl. She loves playing outside, messing about with her beloved dog Mars, and every now and then commanding a war with her plastic toy soldiers. However, when one of her battles gets a little chaotic and she breaks an expensive lamp belonging to her parents, she is threatened to have her dog taken away. 

In a fit of rage, she packs up and runs away from home...only to end up in a mysterious underground cave called "Nowhere." Inside, she discovers dozens upon dozens of kids just like her, whose mission is to play all day every day. It seems as if "Nowhere" could be Tris's dreamland; though there may be more sinister things living in the darkness than runaway children.


The original review is still here, but there's an update at the bottom, so don't forget to read it!


Let me kick off this review with a detailed (and opinionated) breakdown of the book. 

So, chapter one, we have a 12-year-old girl named Tris who is a major tomboy. She wears shorts, she hates all things girly, she has an Iron Man action figure, she has mini wars with plastic soldiers, etc, etc, etc. Okay, I'm gonna interject with a point here: she has an Iron Man action figure? She plays let's-all-massacre-each-other with toy soldiers? She's 12. I don't mind that she's doing those things, but if she is, at least make her, like, 8 or 9. Kids tend to outgrow those things by that age, so I found Tris to be a little immature.

Secondly, I felt that way too much emphasis was put on how different and abnormal and "special" she was. The way it's written, it's almost as if I'm not supposed to have ever heard of a non-girlish girl before. 

Anywho, on with the storyline. So, her parents are out of the house one day, and so she decides to bust out the, as I've stated, toy soldiers, and have en epic fight to the death. She has toys and blocks and stuff scattered everywhere throughout the house. It's so chaotic, you'd have thought a horde of bunnyraptors had stormed the place. 

And then....the unspeakable happens.....She. Breaks. Something. Dun dun dun DUNNNN.....(Gotta admit though, it was inevitable). And to top it all off, the Madre comes home early. She sees the destruction, most notably that her uber-awesome antique lamp has been shattered! (Seriously, this woman must love lamps more than Ryan Higa.) As a punishment, Tris's mother and father threaten to take her dog away from her. At this part, I was like, "Whaaaaat?!" Okay, so your child breaks something of yours. You ground them. You confiscate the Internet, or their Wii, or XBox, or TV privileges, or whatever is of most entertainment for them (because let's face it: parenthood is about finding legal ways to torture your offspring). You don't take away an effing dog. What, are you gonna stick it in the attic and hope it starves to death? I want your butts in prison now!! 

I digress. So, Tris is (completely justifiably) enraged, and she takes Mars (the dog. That's the dog's name. Didn't I mention that?) and runs away from home. Now, this is where things get trippy. So, in this part, the reader is lead to believe that she trips(?) and falls down some sort of large drainage pipe (whoever left that gaping hole open in the middle of the road needs immediate suing), and goes on a wild slide into a bunch of underground catacombs...? 

See, the things that confuses me here is that it's never defined how this underground cavern/refuge exists. Later, it's stated that in the act of "falling," Tris somehow ended up in the underground land of "Nowhere" supernaturally (never mind about the suing then). And yet, at the end, she is able to exit Nowhere normally (as in, climbing up a ladder and hauling herself out of the hole). 

Basically, this "Nowhere" exists as a refuge for unhappy prepubescent children. Is it only for children in that certain neighborhood or town? Or is it ubiquitous and any child from any part of the world can end up there? If one were to dig a hole in the ground where this cavern is geologically situated, would one find the children? Questions! So many questions! 

Ah, but, where were we? Oh yes, Tris fell into a semi-supernatural underground cavern. Well, she's pretty banged up, but she gets rescued by a couple of "Savages" (<--apparently, when you live in Nowhere, you're a Savage. I don't really get this though. I mean, you have an unhappy home or school life, so you end up in Nowhere where you play games all day and...that's it. Other than that, you're a pretty civilized individual. How does the term "Savage" come in? It's not quite Lord of the Flies...) and taken to their "base," I guess we could call it. We are introduced to three characters: the defiantly independent and notoriously "badass" Aya, the meek but kind and medically knowledgeable Declan--And Logan. I can't say much about Logan, as I don't feel his character was developed quite as much as he should have. He is, therefore, unmemorable.

And then there's a large portion of the book where people play games, sleep, and get into close encounters with these shadowy villainy things called "Phocydes." The thing about the Phocydes is that I don't think they were developed as antagonists very well. Motive? We have no motive. Why do they want to eat children? Why are they only confined to Nowhere? Can't they find a bunch of tasty children above ground? Pennywise managed to leave his comfy sewer palace every once in a while to retrieve his child snacks. Why can't the Phocydes? 

Where did they originate from? What exactly are they? The climax of the novel has them taking the appearance of the Savages' loved ones...why? To freak them out? Do they like their children's blood seasoned with a pinch of adrenaline? I drowning in a pool of my own tears of confusion.

Because these antagonists are so poorly developed, I do not see them as a menacing army. I don't know anything about them. Some people say that the scariest thing is the unknown. I disagree. If an explosive, man-eating, soul-sucking, clown-faced demon squid came at me with it's razor teeth of death, I'd be pretty scared. In fact, I would probably need new underwear. The Phocydes are looking pretty welcoming as of now.

Therefore, due to my inability to view the Phocydes as a fear-inducing enemy, it makes the epic battle at the end of the book (Savages vs Phocydes) seem childish. It's like 4th-graders whipping out the torches and pitchforks for a simple game of dodgeball.

And then there's this thing called "the Oracle." I'm sorry, but I felt that that little tidbit was completely unnecessary to the plotline. It's this mystical force (or something, I don't know) that speaks to some of the Savages. And tells them things.

Does it tell them to hurt people? O_O

No, but seriously, the most important thing it does is tell Tris to fight the Phocydes. Surely she didn't need an all-powerful, omniscient, enigmatic fairy essence to tell her that?

Finally, the resolution of the book had Tris leaving Nowhere and going back home. The end. Just a little adventure in the metaphorical sewers of her suburban neighborhood. 

We Are Savages just couldn't hold my attention, there were too many loose ends and plot holes, and the ending was unsatisfactory. It had potential, but I don't feel it was drawn out quite sufficiently.

Thus endeth the extremely long review. *Passes out*


UPDATE: (2/6/13) Okay, so I just reread my review. And ohmygosh, I came off as a mega rhymes-with-witch. I pulled an all-nighter to get it finished, so I was tired and cranky. But that's no excuse: this book, despite it's weak points, actually wasn't as bad as my sleep-deprived self made it out to be. I didn't even point out it's good points, what's wrong with me!?!

We Are Savages had a unique plotline, and I've actually come to appreciate how well written it is for an indie book. Most of the "downsides" were me being nit-picky, and it would really make a great read for kids.

I wrote a more level-headed (i.e., less b*tchy) review and posted it to Goodreads. You can read it here 

I apologize to the readers and the author for my unnecessarily harsh criticism, that, honestly, I really should have phrased better. The moral of the story: bloggers should get a good night's rest before reviewing. Srsly.

SECONDARY UPDATE (5/15/13): Okay, I lied. The note at the beginning about the original review still being there? It's not. I edited the review. It was wayyyyyyy harsher beforehand. Still is, but now I feel more like a human being knowing I've cleaned up this mess of a review somewhat.......gahhhh....... 


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