[Alice in No-Man’s-Land] James Knapp

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Alice in No-Man’s-Land is the story of a privileged girl who only thought of the Blocs, huge areas of towns that have fallen into disarray after a food based disease ravaged them, as a cheap form of entertainment. After all, they’re only there temporarily until Cerulean Holdings goes in and fixes them. Up until she is stranded in one of them with only two of its citizens to help her. Alice’s journey through the decaying bloc is full of brushes with danger and moments of clarity. If she manages to get out of Ypsilanti Bloc, she won’t be leaving as the same person she was when she entered.

While the idea at the core of Alice in No-Man’s-Land was something that I could have gotten behind, the novel read too much like a formula. There’s a girl who has no idea that there’s something very much wrong with her world. When she is suddenly thrust into the very essence of what is wrong with her world, she begins to realize that things have to change and she is apparently in charge of doing this. I think that’s why Alice read as boring to me. She’s the typical hero of a dystopian novel, but she didn’t have anything that really made her stand out. I didn’t feel like she was a very relatable character, even though she did have some character development later on.

Although I found her boring most of the time, Alice adapted to the world inside of the bloc even though it was challenging things that she had grown up believing. She used to have an unshakable belief in her father, but as she spends more time with the people in the bloc she starts doubting the methods he uses to “save” the crumbling bloc and those who live in it. She takes what she learns from inside Ypsilanti Bloc and adjusts her worldview accordingly. It didn’t happen immediately and it didn’t happen without a little resistance, but I would have been annoyed if it had happened any other way.

I was far more interested in Maya and Basilio. They were characters I would have loved to follow. Instead of getting Alice’s impressions of Ypsilanti, I would have enjoyed seeing more of how they reacted to her and how she acted toward them. They’ve had a more difficult life than Alice and have really had to work for things. Although they are characters in a dystopian setting, I think their struggles of surviving and making a life for themselves in a world that has extreme poverty, violence, and gender gaps would have been more relatable. I do realize that sounds a bit strange.

The world was really interesting. I wish there had been more description of it. We got a lot of miniature information dumps when Alice checked the black book or they went through a section of the bloc, but it felt very general to me. I liked the presentation of these blocs as the degradation of society, so those in power had put walls around them. There was a time when people could have moved out, so why didn’t they? I wanted to know more details, but instead I felt like only very basic information was shared with the reader for most of the novel until the information was given too late for me to be hooked.

I understand why people have enjoyed this book, but it ended up not being for me. It took me a very long time to read this, and it wasn’t just because I was busy. If I really want to read a book, I make the time. So although this book is well-written, I couldn’t truly get into the story and it’s characters enough to give it a higher rating.

2.5 stars.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  It was published on May 13th, 2015.

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