Davis has been genetically engineered to be perfect – she’s what’s known as a Prior. Since birth, even before birth, her parents were able to pick and choose the kind of daughter they wanted. Davis is beautiful, athletic, intelligent, and driven to be the best ballerina she can be – just like her mother was.
Cole comes from the wrong side of the tracks, literally. As an Imp – the derogatory term for the imperfect, the geneserians, the unenhanced – he’s segregated by law into tiny tin shacks across the river from the Priors. Imps are second class citizens, forbidden from fraternizing with the Priors and only allowed to work the lowest-paying jobs possible. Cole is a cage fighter in the underground (and very illegal) FEUDS, and his sponsor is the current mayor.
Davis’s dad is a politician campaigning to be the new mayor. His platform is total and complete segregation – for the good of all citizens. If he’s elected, Priors and Imps will never look at each other again. They will never speak. Imp news won’t even be shown on Prior television.
When a mysterious illness starts killing Priors – previously thought to be immune to nearly everything – it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the government covers it up. After all, when the mayor sponsors illegal fights, it’s obvious that there’s a lot of corruption.
Davis and Cole find themselves drawn to each other, and may be each other’s only hope in the screwed up world they live in.
Feuds is the latest in the YA dystopian trend, and is unfortunately very similar to many more popular books. I think it’s probably very difficult to write a good dystopian novel now – it’s been such a trend for so long that you’d have to do something totally different to stand out. Feuds, I hate to say, does not stand out.
From the first few pages, it’s easy to see the similarities to other YA dystopias. On the first page of Feuds, Davis has a dream that she’s performing in her ballet aptitude test, the one that will determine whether she qualifies for the Olympiads, and she finds that Imps are watching her. Not just watching her, but laughing, howling even, at her mistakes. When she wakes up, her vitals monitor tells her that she’s well outside the normal range – she’s obviously had a nightmare. This obvious distrust, even fear, of outsiders, reminded me of a number of recent books.Under the Never Sky comes to mind, with Aria’s distrust of the “savage” Perry. I also thought of Divergent and the Factionless, who live on the edges of society and strike fear into the hearts of whoever happens to stumble across them.
I was also reminded of Divergent when Davis’s father tells her what it was like before segregation separated the Priors and Imps: Davis’s father had told her horror stories of what the city had been like back when the Imps were fully integrated. Crime – rapes, shootings, theft – it was through the roof until Kensington started pushing segregation. Sounds strikingly similar to the reason for establishing the factions, right? [click through to my full review for slight spoilers]
Other similarities were (obviously) Romeo & Juliet, but also the movie Gattaca and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. But enough on the similarities – I’m starting to bore even myself with these comparisons.
Onto the world building, my favorite part of dystopias, and another area that Feuds failed.
If my math is correct, the book takes place around 2137 (it had been nearly seventy-five years since Kensington’s death in 2062), yet not too much is different. People still drink Grey Goose, and froyo is still the snack of choice. Even technology hasn’t advanced that much – Priors use P-Cards for access (not too different from the ID badge I access my office with) and DirecTalks are really just tiny cell phones that can be worn as bracelets. Hospital staff still use computers to enter data, and it’s as easy as ever to hack in with just a username (printed on any staff ID) and password (written down next to the computer). Where is the retinal scan, the DNA test, the voice recognition that I’ve come to know and love? People really just use cards for access? Shouldn’t they at least be implanted somehow? We’re 123 years in the future!
But don’t get me wrong, not everything is bad. I liked Davis’s relationship with her friends, especially Vera, although it was sorely neglected in the book. I also liked Cole’s relationship with Worsley, the only Imp with medical training. Even Davis and Cole’s relationship was fine, though it progressed a little more quickly than I would have liked (although I have to admit, it did follow Romeo & Juliet nicely, what with the characters being absolutely devoted to each other after one kiss).
The thing that I probably liked the most was Davis’s relationship with Terri, her stepmother. Many books try to make the stepmother awful, evil, and out to get the stepdaughter. In this case, Terri is wonderful, loving, and arguably a better parent than Davis’s biological father. Terri genuinely cares about Davis and wants to make sure that she’s still able to go out and have fun with her friends, despite participating in her father’s campaign events. She offers to make her post-workout snacks and defends her when her father’s campaign manager insults her clothing choices or implies that she isn’t dressed like a proper lady. I honestly thought that Terri was going to intervene when Davis told her father that the government was covering up the sickness that had killed many of her friends, and her father basically told her to shut up and go to the hospital… But maybe that’s coming in the next installment.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy.
Final rating: 2.5/5 for a good story in theory with poor execution – rounded up to ★★★☆☆