First in a series
By Erin Bowman
Available now from HarperTeen
Gray Weathersby best friend is his older brother Blaine. But it's Blaine's eighteenth birthday, which means he'll disappear at midnight. Next year it's Gray's turn. But Gray refuses to accept the Heist, starts poking around, and decides to cross the wall surrounding Claysoot even though everyone else who tried died.
Erin Bowman does a great job of setting up the world in TAKEN. In just a few chapters you know how Claysoot works and how they've managed to survive when the boys vanish at eighteen. When Gray, and his new girlfriend Emma, run away they find a city, something they never expected. How things work in Taem unfolds at an easily understood pace, the reader finding out what's going on with Gray. Of course, he's soon ready to run away from Taem too.
There are lots of twists and turns in TAKEN. Nothing is as it initially seems, not even death. The ending left me excited about picking up the next book, to see where the characters will go next and what they'll manage there. There's a nice blend of science fiction and thriller elements freshening up the dystopian setting. (It reminds me of ARCLIGHT in genre, although the two books are otherwise completely different.)
The love triangle is a weakness. I like both points. Emma is a healer and falls fast for Gray once she sees past his facade. She's willing to stick by him through grave danger. Bree is fierce and independent. It's nice to see a female love interest who is more physical than the male hero. But the way Gray handled his romances made me come to dislike him. He feels that Emma betrayed him, which is an understandable emotional reaction. But he treats her badly because of it. Meanwhile, he's getting flirty with Bree and never really worries about the fact that he has a girlfriend.
Otherwise, though, I did like Gray. He's unwilling to accept things at face value. He does his own research and makes up his mind based on what he observes rather than what he's told. He does his best to protect the people he cares about. He's a decent person, but if he doesn't stop being unpleasant to Emma I may not be able to make it through TAKEN's sequel.
TAKEN is an exciting debut. I look forward to reading Erin Bowman's future novels. In TAKEN she's created an interesting world, populated it with sympathetic characters (aside from the villain), and delivered an intriguing, twisty plot. I'm sure she'll be even better as she gains experience as an author.