My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Length: 368 pages
Release date: 23 August 2018
The world is different now.
There are no rules, no governments, and no guarantees that you’ll be saved.
Rival factions have taken over, fighting each other for survival with no loyalty to anyone but their own. At 21, Hayden has taken over Blackwing and is one of the youngest leaders in the area. In protecting his camp from starvation, raids from other factions and the threat of being kidnapped, he has enough to worry about before he finds Grace.
The daughter of the head of the rival camp Greystone, she is slow to trust anyone, much less the leader of those she has been trained to kill.
This is danger. This is chaos. This is anarchy.
“The Hunger Games for a new generation,” boasts Anarchy‘s tagline. We’re already off to a presumptuous start. If this book is The Hunger Games, then Fifty Shades of Grey is Pride and Prejudice. Instead, Megan DeVos’s Anarchy is classic dystopian romance in which the scenarios are contrived, the worldbuilding doesn’t hold up and the perils of a post-apocalyptic wasteland can’t hold a candle to the true love blooming between its protagonists. And I enjoyed almost every second of it.
I guess this is a guilty pleasure kind of book. If Anarchy was a fanfic, it would be a pretty good fanfic. It follows the conventions of fanfiction pretty damn well, eschewing things that fanfic readers typically can do without such as political realism for juicy angst and sexual tension. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that DeVos was originally a self-published writer on Wattpad.
Now, I’m not a literary snob. I live for well-written fanfiction and love juicy angst just as much as the next person. I’m happy for authors to get exposure on any platform, including sites like Wattpad, AO3 and ff.net. But to the Anarchy marketing team, just please don’t tell me this has anything to do with The Hunger Games. At best it’s a budget Divergent which, if you know my opinion on it, is already a budget version of three or four actually good dystopian novels.
For starters, Anarchy‘s worldbuilding has a major believability problem. The novel takes place about 15 years after a vaguely explained war that sent the planet back into the Dark Ages without involving nukes. Cities have been abandoned save for a population of savages called Brutes, and survivors live in camps in the wilderness where their main source of supplies is by raiding other camps and occasionally venturing back into the nearest city.
Anyone with a basic grasp on common sense immediately sees the big question mark. Since the world is now back at pre-Industrial Revolution levels of technology, there’s no manufacturing going on. Even if you assume that most of the consumable goods in a metropolis have somehow survived the extensive bombing, they are going to be used up at some point–likely far before fifteen years have passed.
Raiding is an inherently unproductive activity that simply extracts others’ resources without creating new resources, yet in DeVos’s world raids seem to offer a limitless supply of modern amenities. Out of petrol? Bandages? Ammunition? No problem, we’ll just go raid a neighbouring camp that magically has all of these things even though the world ended and no one has manufacturing capabilities! It’s honestly ridiculous how people in Anarchy use toothbrushes, tampons and PLASTIC BOTTLES OF WATER. Blackwing reads less like post-apocalyptic anarchy and more like a summer camp for horny students where the shower water occasionally runs out. Oh no, guess the world is really ending now.
But hey, before you start thinking too hard about how none of this remotely makes sense, here’s some unfulfilled pining and a bit of we-really-shouldn’t-do-this smooching. Let’s focus on the real issues, guys.
As clichéd as Hayden and Grace are, don’t kill me…I actually liked them. It was a hard pass while rolling my eyes kind of like, but I still had a fun time reading their story. This is one of those stories you can acknowledge are cheesy and contrived to the nth degree while still admitting that yeah, they’re entertaining. That’s thanks in large part to the romance being quality in a cheesy, feel-good way. I could have done with some kind of warning about the explicit sex though. It’s not bad, and it helps that the protagonists are older than the usual YA leads at 21, but the softcore porn was a surprise when this book is, again, marketed after the romance-wise squeaky-clean Hunger Games.
Plot? What plot? I would bet that the Anarchy series wasn’t originally written as the several books under one arc but rather one long work the publishers were forced to split into several volumes, because besides its romantic angst Anarchy has no rising action, central conflict or climax whatsoever (no, that kind of climax doesn’t count). A few unlinked things just happen, and then the novel ends without resolution. This could be the first few episodes of a CW show now that I think of it.
Anarchy is melodramatic. It’s clunky. It takes itself a bit too seriously when its protagonists think thoughts like this:
Sometimes I got so used to this malevolent world we lived in that I forgot what a true tragedy it really was.
What a cruel twist of fate that the only person to ever make me feel anything was the one person I couldn’t have.
I had great fun with it anyway, and as long as you don’t expect intellectual stimulation you can too. Megan DeVos writes snappy, readable prose, partly negating Anarchy‘s frustrating lack of good story. I wouldn’t be surprised if she returned in a few years with a legitimately great novel.
*Thanks to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book! All opinions represented remain my own.*