It is rare for me to see a book marketed as highly as The Prey by Tom Isbell. I saw ads for the novel all over the internet, popping up on Amazon and GoodReads. Those ads definitely contributed to my excitement for reading The Prey. I’m into dystopian novels, and The Prey promised a post-nuclear America contaminated by a corrupted government and questionable morals. What I did not expect was for the book to be so poorly written that I could barely make it to the last page, let alone enjoy a coherent story with well thought-out characters.
The Prey starts off in the middle of some sort of rehabilitation camp for orphaned boys. You don’t know much about the camp other than that the boys have all been exposed to radiation as a result of the nuclear blasts that took place 20 years prior. The story follows a character who likes to read and therefore is named Book. Yes, all the male characters have similar brilliant naming schemes, such as the quiet but stealthy boy who is aptly named Cat. When Cat arrives to the base, Book finds that not everything is sunshine and roses when they graduate. In fact, the graduates are sent into the wild where they are hunted down by the bad guys named Brown Shirts because, you guessed it, they have brown shirts.
The story switches between Book and a girl named Hope. Hope is a twin with a sister named Faith, another stroke of naming genius. Hope and her father and sister have been on the run from the Brown Shirts for years. The reason behind the running is that Hope and Faith are twins. No other information is given about the situation until after Hope and Faith are captured and sent to their own camp, where medical experiments are conducted on twins because of their nearly identical DNA to see which strains of medicine will work and which will not. Hope meets Book for all of five minutes, and of course, they fall in love, but both Book and Hope have no idea why they have these warm fuzzy feelings when they think of each other. Basically, the whole rest of the story is about their escapes from the camps with no real substance or exposition.
I had high hopes for this novel. I really did. I tried to like it, but I couldn’t. The characters were flat and completely one-dimensional. The story-line was not only predictable, but I felt like it was written by someone who had never taken College Writing 101. The tenses shifted between the chapters told by Book and Hope from first person to third person. There were basic grammatical errors coupled with awkward sentence structure and double negatives. I had to make myself finish this book, and I complained to anyone who would listen every step of the way.
The Prey is a perfect example of good marketing. I agreed to read and review the book solely based on the ads I had seen. Without those ads, I probably would have let this book slide under my radar. However, I am going to save you all the pain and time I wasted on this novel. I cannot recommend this book to anyone of any age group–the story is flat, the writing is bad, and the characters are just terrible. Save yourself the trouble and read something else.
Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperTeen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.