Verdict: Vela's internal conflict between her need to fit in and her frustrated response to the dystopian society she lives in makes for an emotionally evocative story that will fill the reader with a sweet, righteous anger and inspire them to be brave in the face of injustice.
In a world where the nation is at war with “the North”, high school student Vela is struggling to avoid compulsory military service. The armband she wears is only one star away from guaranteeing her safety, but when her grandfather returns from a stint in prison she’s forced to choose between her social standing and her integrity.
THE REBEL’S CODE is set in a world of air raid sirens and military convoys. In Vela’s classroom they solve math problems that revolve around the quickest way to destroy balloon bombs, give mandatory reports on the failings of other students, and participate in weekly rifle practice. The walls are decorated with war time murals and the books they study worship their president as a god. The gruesome mingles with the familiar to make a setting that’s only a couple terrifying leaps of logic away from present day society.
Vela is a victim of the world. Her classmates are constantly watching for lapses in her judgment, and any mistake could mean a humiliating loss of rank. It isn’t long before word of mouth and the high school’s competitive atmosphere begins to work against her. Vela’s grim circumstances and the injustices she faces in THE REBEL’S CODE are more than a plot device, they’re a manifestation of all the times the reader has felt trapped, hopeless, or betrayed.
But Vela isn’t a damsel waiting to be rescued. She’s prone to fits of anger—moments where her teeth grind and her hands clench and she loses control. She bites back apologies, backtalks her mother, and calls teachers out for their negligence. Vela doesn’t accept that she lives in a society where the bigger jerk wins. When she’s threatened by the school bully, she strikes back. She struggles to break out of the complacency that the world encourages and hangs on to her fearless nature.
The end of THE REBEL’S CODE leaves a lot of plot lines unresolved and the text is riddled with grammar errors, but despite those flaws THE REBEL’S CODE has all the makings of the next hit dystopian series. The world that JD Nelson has created is both fantastic and frightening, and Vela’s character perfectly encapsulates the mixture of defiance, helplessness, and confusion of a teenager whose personality facets are still developing—it’s a novel that drags the reader through emotional turmoil, but leaves them feeling hopeful with each turn of the page.
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader