Rachel lives on The Property with her mother, Vivian, not far from the Line that separates the Unified States from Away. Strange and dangerous things are said to live behind the Line. The net streams are full of the "official" story, but as Vivian says, the official story isn't necessarily the true one. Rachel gets a chance to find out the truth when she discovers a recording of a voice asking for help that has come from across the Line.
As we all know I like my dystopian novels, and it's a very exciting thing to start on this new crop of YA dystopian books. The Line was an excellent beginning as it contained lots of my favourite dystopian elements: totalitarianism, perpetual war and a government that has given itself license to create its own past, present and future with a complete disregard for the facts.
The Line is Teri Hall's debut novel. It's gently paced and gives the reader plenty of time to assimilate the facts of this world and get to know the characters before the story starts to happen. For much of The Line there is a tiny cast: Rachel, Vivian, Mrs Moore (who owns The Property) and Jonathon, the farm hand. Seen through Rachel's eyes, the Unified States doesn't seem particularly ominous--at first. Being isolated on The Property protects Rachel from much of the misery it's hinted that exists in the more populated areas. But as the truth slowly unravels, Rachel--and the readers--see the truth not only about Away, but also the government and her father's death in a long-ago war.
Hall provides plenty of back story in the form of lessons that Vivian drills into Rachel. While it's not the most graceful method of getting information across to the reader, it gets the job done and illuminates the relationship between mother and daughter. I did find some of the interactions between the pair a little too sweet and demonstrative, and on occasion their responses seemed almost stylised. Tears during emotional moments would appear as if on queue.
The Line is a slim novel and is over almost before it's begun. Some readers may find this frustrating, but I enjoyed the "until next time" feel of the ending. (And there will be a next time. The sequel, Away is due out in 2011.) Hall is able to build tension without being miserly with details or hiding things from the reader, which I personally find far more frustrating than a short novel.
And how is it's dystopian-ness? I'm pleased to say that The Line delivers! It gives nods to several classics including Nineteen Eighty-four and The Chrysalids, two of my favourites, while providing a fresh take on the genre. The Line is accessible for older and younger readers too. Never too early to an instill a mistrust of the government, I say.
The Line is an excellent debut novel and an auspicious start to 2010's crop of dystopian books.*
Thanks again to Lenore for sending me an ARC of this book!
*Okay, so really Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder was probably the "start" of 2010's dystopian crop, but my copy is stuck somewhere in the northern hemisphere because of a giant ash cloud. How dystopian is that? Pass the long pig.