Diane Anthony’s THE RARE is a dystopian young adult novel (akin to Veronica Roth’s The Giver and Divergent) with a teen girl struggling with suicidal ideation in a city with an imperious government that keeps life-altering secrets. Olivia is recovering from her most recent suicide attempt when she discovers a odd photograph when snooping in her mother’s room. After confronting her mother about the identity of the people in the picture and receiving only a cold shoulder, Olivia begins to feel worn out and angered by the life in which she is stuck. The fog in the walled-in city is never ending, constantly bothering Olivia’s asthma, the rain is poisonous, and the government has announced that they want to put chips in peoples’ arms to alert them of dangerous weather under the guise of keeping them safe. With her friend David by her side, Olivia yearns for a way out of the city and her life that doesn’t involve death.
The first third of THE RARE focuses on Olivia’s daily life, recovering from a suicide attempt, dealing with bullies, navigating conflicts with her overbearing mother, and contemplating leaving the city with David. Olivia lacks a sense of direction, rarely thinking of what her future might hold or analyzing the world beyond her small bubble. The pacing in this section is slow, and the tension with Olivia’s bully and with her mother feels temporary at best in the long wait before she and David finally leave the city. After the slow start, the novel picks up the pace and the intrigue as Olivia and David embark on a blind journey through the mysterious woods. When they meet a group of intrepid strangers and learn the truth about the city and why the government seeks to control the population, excitement and tension soars. The bulk of this part of the novel tests Olivia’s limits as a young woman, as a daughter, and as a citizen of a troubled world. The abrupt cliffhanger of an ending leaves a few threads of the story unresolved and several questions unanswered; it is ultimately unsatisfying as it requires a sequel, not allowing THE RARE to stand alone on its own right.
Despite having attempted suicide three times, Olivia is not a fragile girl. Though she has asthma and weak vision and is bullied on a daily basis, she is a strong and forthright individual, if lacking purpose and ambition in her life. Minor characters foil her well and offer diverse personalities to round out the book, though Olivia’s mother’s apparent complete lack of sympathy for her suicidal daughter is at times off-putting. The writing in THE RARE is simplistic, favoring the straightforward and easily accessible over the vivid and cerebral. This style benefits the book’s ample action scenes and quick dialogue but can feel dumbed-down when it doesn’t need to be. The novel shines in its worldbuilding, an important aspect of the dystopian genre. Facets of the world’s history are revealed at just the right moment, pulling back the lens to allow Olivia to see more of the society that made her who she is. Author Diane Anthony has created a world ripe for further adventures.
The long, slow start of Diane Anthony’s THE RARE cedes to a tension-filled dystopian teen novel, and while the author excels in worldbuilding, the book it ends in an unsatisfying cliffhanger.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader