Publisher’s Synopsis: (It’s a long one, click here to jump to review)
“My name is Emerson Barnes. But it wasn’t always this. When I was growing up, my parents called me Boy.”
The event took place long ago when the blurry lines between the political parties merged into one. Along with the passing of the Child First laws came one enduring focus: if you can’t look after your children, we will do it for you. Their intent was pure, but the impact was brutal, as the CHIRP Franchise tore families apart.
Don’t get attached. Keep your distance. You don’t know when they could be taken away from you.
A secret organization known as The Push gets more and more brazen in their attempts to help people rise against the government. Citizens whisper rumors of Laferty Bridge, a means to escape the government’s rule and live freely. But those who CHIRP capture end up in Re-education centers to face horrific punishments.
Don’t talk about it. Don’t fight it. Don’t run.
In Emerson’s early life, he experiences friendship, love, loss, and death. Parents who falter under their obligations, a family whose secret runs deep through the veins of their home, and an innocent death that destroys hard-fought friendships. Surfacing from the disruption, Administrator Raxiel drafts him into the big machine as a Cadet, for her own undisclosed purposes. He progresses through the CHIRP ranks, exacting the orders he swore to follow, tiptoeing the line between freedom and captivity.
But when a gruesome event from Emerson’s past comes back to haunt him, it turns his perfect life upside down. He is no longer protected by his position and falls under the same rules as everyone else. With his son allocated to a House, he must decide whether to succumb to his beliefs or rise and fight against the very thing he has spent so long enforcing.
For years, Emerson worked to investigate and eradicate The Push from existence, but now he needs their help. And he isn’t about to let anything stand in his way. Relationships hang in the balance and loyalty becomes a commodity.
What lies beyond could be the freedom he so desperately seeks… or his family’s complete destruction.
Point of view:
1st person. Entirely from Emerson Barnes’ perspective.
This is a long dystopian. It’s almost like an omnibus of several shorter interconnected books. First person from his perspective, this tells the life of Emerson Barnes broken into sections by his age: 7, 14, 21, 28, & 35. Government oppression mainly in the form of hyper control over children, their raising, and instruction.
I wish the opening section felt more like the perspective of a 7-year-old (vs an adult) – however it definitely sucked me in to the world building and Boy Barnes specifically.
14 was particularly wild and twisty, without knowing who to trust and what would happen next. It was frustrating, but in the best way.
21 & 28 show us a sometimes conflicted Emerson working for the very agency he despised in his youth. He also has family and found family to help him weather these paradoxical experiences.
35 finds Emerson putting his family above all else. Reuniting with ghosts from his past and finding not all is at it seems. Wily & clever.
While there were some continuity issues, overall I enjoyed this wild tale and Allen’s writing. Nice pacing, unpredictable, and an insidious plot.
Note: The author reached out and asked me to read this. I have Kindle Unlimited and borrowed it via that.