Author: Alexandra Oliva
Links: Indiebound |Goodreads
Summary: This was a lot of fun and somewhat insightful about reality TV, but overall it was also light and predictable.
I always enjoy a fresh take on disaster/dystopian novels and I’ve been enjoying reality TV lately, so I couldn’t resist this story of a reality show contestant who begins to be uncertain whether a disaster is real or part of the show. While Zoo participates in an endurance and survival skills challenge, the lines between reality and the show begin to blur. Determining which is which may make the difference to whether or not she survives.
Initially, I was very excited by the diverse cast the author introduced. I liked that she highlighted the characters’ races, since A) I think I assume characters are white unless otherwise mentioned and B) I think the way she categorized people by race and profession match how we tend to identify reality show contestants. Throughout the first part of the book, the author did a great job showing how people might view these contestants as fitting certain stereotypes. She also shows how the producers play into those stereotypes and shape story arcs for each contestant. I enjoyed this section a lot. I found it insightful and funny. The foreshadowing was fantastic at the beginning too. It definitely made me want to keep reading!
The second part of the book wasn’t as good. We lose track of most of the fascinating characters. Some of the survival stuff is kind of gory, including a detailed description of skinning a squirrel that I found completely unnecessary. I also thought the line between the show and reality was too clear to me as a reader. I realize the story was about Zoo figuring it out, but I would have loved if the author had made me question what was real. That didn’t happen. I did like that Zoo was competent, but not unbelievably so. I also liked that Zoo got her period and it was mentioned and wasn’t a big deal. I would have liked that she didn’t want children, but her creepy nightmares about kids were a little too weird. Overall, this was a really fun read and I’d recommend it if it appeals to you. It just wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.