This is a dual narrative shared between Zimri (poor girl who just wants to make music) and Orpheus (rich boy who doesn’t want to fall in line to his dad’s demands). A series of events bring the two together, and Zimri introduces Orpheus to what life is like for the hard-working folks who pack his Amazon Prime packages (okay, so they aren’t Amazon, but that is essentially what they are). They share a passion for music . . . You see where this is heading. The problem for me was that I think you still have to have that passion about music to take this book seriously.
I’m not sure when I lost that, but there did come a day when I no longer saw a Empire Records as a superior film (I still like it, but it just seemed to matter more when I was 16). The end result is that I gave it three stars, but I suspect actual YA readers will enjoy it more.
In Orpheus Chanson’s world, geniuses and prodigies are no longer born or honed through hard work. Instead, procedures to induce Acquired Savant Abilities (ASAs) are now purchased by the privileged. And Orpheus’s father holds the copyright to the ASA procedure.
Zimri Robinson, a natural musical prodigy, is a “plebe”–a worker at the enormous warehouse that supplies an on-line marketplace that has supplanted all commerce. Her grueling schedule and her grandmother’s illness can’t keep her from making music–even if it is illegal.
Orpheus and Zimri are not supposed to meet. He is meant for greatness; she is not. But sometimes, rules are meant to be broken. Here is a thriller, love story, and social experiment that readers will find gripping–and terrifying.
I think the biggest strength in this book is the fact that Zimri clearly loves music because it is part of her soul – she doesn’t need attention, stardom, or money for her music, and that is what really makes her come across as a believable musician. She is also someone deeply connected to her family and her community, and that shines through. She is likeable.
Orpheus is a little less convincing. He waffles between being a vacuous idiot and being someone who can see beyond the “Buzz” of the corporate machine. Dark, smart and broody is more my thing, so this kid who visits the poor side of town in this grimly dystopian setting like it’s a fabulous vacation gets on my nerves.
The first few chapters are boring, but it does get better. Nevertheless, it has an earnestness that more mature readers will probably find a bit silly. Dystopian has always been the genre to point out the evils in society, and this does address several social issues, but the freedom of music might not be the most pressing of evils for some readers. I think it will play better with the target audience of YA rather than adult readers of YA simply because themes of personal expression are more heartfelt to the younger crowd. There are also several nods and winks to pop culture and celebrity that will make this more humorous for a generation inuendated by the vacant and shallow Kardashian machine. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.