Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: Gated by Amy Christine Parker

by Amy Christine Parker
Released: 08.06.2013
352 pages
Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: library

A fast-paced, nerve-fraying contemporary thriller that questions loyalties and twists truths.

Appearances can be deceiving.

In the Community, life seems perfect. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pioneer invited Lyla’s family to join his group and escape the evil in the world. They were happy to be chosen, happy to move away from New York and start over in such an idyllic gated community. Now seventeen, Lyla knows that Pioneer is more than just their charismatic leader, he is their prophet . . . but his visions have grown dark.

Lyla is a loyal member of the Community, but a chance encounter with an outsider boy has her questioning Pioneer, the Community—everything. And if there’s one thing not allowed in the Community, it’s doubt. Her family and friends are certain in their belief. Lyla wishes she could feel the same. As Pioneer begins to manipulate his flock toward disaster, the question remains: Will Lyla follow them over the edge?

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand why anyone would join a cult. But Gated tells the story of the Community from the inside looking out, and from behind the gates things are not quite so simple. Amy Christine Parker’s beautiful writing creates a chilling, utterly unique YA story. Perfect for fans of creepy thrillers and contemporary fiction alike. (from GoodReads).

REVIEW: Here's my general impression of Gated: mediocre writing in terms of word choice and descriptions. While a decent writer in terms of structure and plot, Parker's writing in Gated did not achieve much in terms of artistry. Here's a sample from the first page:
The sky is a perfect cloudless blue and the air is hot from the summer sun.
Do you see what I mean? Just boring, first year lit & comp type of writing. I was constantly reminded of the writing style one would find in a Sweet Valley Twins book. However, in that case, we are talking about writing for a serial series, something familiar that a reader can return to the same way she (or he) will tune in for a favorite sitcom. For the subject matter in Gated, I would expect the language to be compelling; instead, it felt languid. Additionally, Sweet Valley Twins was written for middle-grade girls, while the protagonist in Gated is shortly turning 18, and I believe was marketed to the YA crowd.

This is not to say that there are not interesting aspects of Gated. In particular, the reason why Lyla's family joined the Community was a potentially intriguing look into the psychology of family grief, guilt and responsibility. Had this been fleshed out more, I think this would have added more of an emotional base to the book. Again, the rather ho-hum writing rendered many of the emotions expressed in Gated as two-dimensional and flat.  This is very unfortunate as the plot was well executed.

Please bear in mind that I am saying this is boring writing for older YA readers. There is a reason that I kept thinking of an MG series when reading - the writing is very young. Middle graders or struggling readers might find this a very good book and find some excitement that I could not.


  1. First of all, SO GLAD YOU'RE BACK!!!!! And a huge congratulations on becoming a mom! So happy for you:)

    I'm bummed about this book to be honest. I had hoped it would get a higher rating from you because I've been really wanting to read it. I struggle with books that read young though, so if this one had you thinking MG all the way through, then I think I'm going to take pass:( Glad the plot was at least well done!

    1. Thanks, Jenny, although I feel completely clueless now! SO many bloggers from two years ago are gone now! Couldn't believe it! Feels like I have so many new ones to get to know.

      Anyway, I think I am a dissenting voice on this one, but yes, I wasn't much impressed with the writing, sadly. Too bad, as I reading about cults.