images (1)Reviewed by Drennan Spitzer

In Renegade, first-person narrator Evelyn Winters tells of her life in the society of Elysium, somewhere below the surface of the Atlantic. Author J.A. Souders weaves a story that is part dystopian fiction, part Little Mermaid, and part love story. Published by TOR Teen, this novel is pitched at young readers and feels very much like the popular Hunger Games series. 

In Renegade, Evelyn battles her own memory loss. After meeting the “Surface Dweller” Gavin, she is forced to confront the evils of her own society, Elysium, a society designed to be perfect. As the novel unfolds, Evelyn must face the possibility that this attempt at societal perfection has come at far too high a cost. In this way, Souders’s novel is classic dystopian fiction. 

Evelyn has always been taught that “Surface Dwellers,” those who live in the world that you and I know, are somehow evil. However, when she meets Gavin, who seems to be from Florida, she finds herself drawn to him and must rethink this assumption. As the novel progresses, Evelyn commits to helping Gavin escape from Elysium so that he may return to his home. In the process, their relationship becomes more than just friendly.

Evelyn, as a character, is less sympathetic than I would like. This is increasingly the case as the novel progresses. At various points, she is presented as a disabled child with little memory, a whiney teenager, typical female in distress with no volition of her own, and a trained assassin. This is absolutely an odd combination of character qualities, and Evelyn switches from one to the other in a move reminiscent of Multiple Personality Disorder. In the end, however, Evelyn seems to be a victim. While we may feel sorry for her in this regard, there is little in her character to actually like.

Renegade is a first-person narration written in the present tense. It should be noted that The Hunger Games is written the same way. This kind of narrative allows for a kind of immediacy. As readers, we are present with Evelyn, experiencing things as she does. And yet, it also becomes both contrived and tedious, as a stylistic choice. Overall, this novel slows down about a third of the way through. Evelyn and Gavin, in their attempt to escape, run back and forth in the underwater world of Elysium, but at times it feels as though they are not really making any progress. It is as if Souders loses momentum far too early on and never quite regains it.

While there is certainly an audience for Renegade, it is not a particularly strong novel. Certainly dystopian fiction combined with romance seems to appeal to the contemporary young reader. However, there is little beyond the genre appeal to recommend Renegade.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Drennan Spitzer is a writer and blogger from California who now resides in New England. She writes creatively, blogs publicly, and journals privately. You can find her at http://drennanspitzer.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Tor Teen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.