Friday, April 10, 2015

The First Principle - Marissa Shrock

The First Principle

Publisher:        Kregel Publications

Market:            Christian

Genre:             YA; dystopian

Length:            240 pages

Pub. Date:       December 20, 2014

Description (from Amazon):

In the not-too-distant future, the United Regions of America has formed. Governors hold territories instead of states, and while Washington, DC, is gone, the government has more control than ever before. For fifteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins, the daughter of a governor, this is life as usual. High school seems pretty much the same--until one day, that controlling power steps right through the door during study hall.

When Vivica speaks out to defend her pregnant friend against the harsh treatment of Population Management Officer Marina Ward, she has no idea she's sowing the seeds of a revolution in her own life. But it isn't long before she discovers her own illegal pregnancy. Now she has to decide whether to get the mandatory abortion--or follow her heart, try to keep the baby, and possibly ruin her mother's chances at becoming president.

A rebel group called the Emancipation Warriors, who are fighting to restore freedoms once held unalienable, offer her asylum. Can Vivica trust these rebels to help her or will they bring everything crashing down around her? Accepting their help may come with consequences she isn't ready to face.

Marissa Shrock's debut novel crafts a chilling story of what may be to come if we allow the economic and moral crises currently facing our country to change the foundations on which we built our independence--and of the difference one person can make when they choose to trust God's lead.

My Review:

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.  I requested the book for two reasons.  The first being that futuristic dystopian literature is still such a hot area for young adult fiction.  I like to explore authors’ different takes on the prevalent theme.  However, the bigger draw for me was the author herself, Marissa Shrock.  She is a middle school language arts teacher, as I was once, publishing her first novel.  So my assumption was that she would have a good handle on what appeals to teen readers.  I was not disappointed.

Fifteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins is the daughter of a governor in the not too distant future United Regions of North America.  She has been indoctrinated that government knows best and to toe the line.  Vivica doesn’t question her life until she discovers her illegal pregnancy and begins to wonder about the sanctity of life and if the government is really looking out for the best interest of those it’s meant to serve. 

Vivica is driven by both internal conflict and external events.  She is surrounded by characters who are each true to their own natures and have their own agendas.  This at times creates support for Vivica and her journey and at other times creates a lot of the plot tension that kept me turning pages.

While the idea of a United Regions of North America and the government structures was confusing at times, I think both were adequately explained throughout the story.  It was just such an unfamiliar (yet recognizable) “country” and government system that at times I had to pause in the story and think.  Never a bad thing.  Shrock creates a very believable option of a future society full of government control and the acceptance of any beliefs but those founded on Biblical principles. 

My qualms with the story came in two linked areas.  The first being the relationship between Vivica and the father of her child.  It just seemed a bit too dramatic and forced to me.  It also seemed in place for the sole purpose of pushing Vivica to accept Christ and the Emancipation Warriors beliefs.  The beliefs the Emancipation Warriors are fighting for in the book are unashamedly Christian and biblically based.  Both good things to expose young readers of today too.  However, many times it seemed nothing more than a plot device and will perhaps turn some readers off the book as a whole.

As far as questionable content for the conservative reader, there is both violence (although not graphic) and, as mentioned, teen pregnancy.  However, I believe it is perfectly acceptable for young adult readers.  The book brings a perspective not really found in current YA dystopian novels.  Most are based on the achievement of the individual protagonist.  While Vivica is strong and certainly does her part, it is clear that there is a bigger work at play and that God ultimately helps people succeed.  Additionally, the story world created by Shrock is not as fantastical and fictional as most dystopian worlds tend to be.  She took trends we already see in our current culture and simply magnifies them in her future story world.

Overall, I think this is a worthwhile book for both teens and adults alike.  It made me ponder some of the things I see around me in society and government.  I was rooting for Vivica, which kept me turning pages.  And the book ended in such a way that I wonder if this is the first in a series – an idea that I would fully support as a reader.

Pros:  fast-paced; dynamic protagonist with antagonists I loved to dislike; realistic future worldview

Cons:  some plot jumps; spirituality as plot device

My Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars (Good)

*This review is also posted on The Christian Manifesto website

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