As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

February 12, 2011

GRACE by Elizabeth Scott, 2010

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate. (Amazon product description)

Review by Alexa Barry

Scott is one of the few authors who could make me read a book about a suicide bomber. And, more, look forward to the experience.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I opened the cover. It certainly wasn't what I got.

Grace is a morally ambiguous character. As is her traveling companion Kerr. I thought the lines would be more clear cut. That it would be white and black, good and bad, hero and tyrant. It isn't. Both sides in Grace commit terrible acts and believe their acts are justified because they are at war. Keran Berj has created a regime based on terror, he is a monster, and yet in their fight against him the People have become equally repugnant. They teach girls it is their sole purpose to die for the cause and take as many people with them as they can.

The best angels die pregnant. . . Keran Benj says this is inhuman but then Keran Benj hanged his own son for evil thoughts.

Both have resorted to treating people, both their own and the ones they fight as things.

Grace is a quiet book. There are no car chases, no explosions, and no countdowns to diffuse the bomb. And yet the book is tense. We travel with Grace and Kerr towards the border on a train that might be stopped at any moment. The soldiers on board have complete control and can treat the passengers as they wish. I wanted so badly for them to make it, for them both to be free.

As Grace's story unfolds, in flashbacks, and as she learns more about Kerr, and his desperation to start a new life, her view of the world changes. She begins to question things she has done and things she believes.

I see that everyone around us is not a thing. Not a sheep. I see that everyone is a person.
Everyone I see matters to someone.

This is a brave, honest and disturbing look at what happens when children are brought up to be afraid; brought up to think that others are less worthy; brought up to think that the only way to create change is through destruction. It forces you to not judge but to really think, to feel sympathy for characters who do terrible things.

Grace is marketed as a a dystopian novel, but it really isn't. Although the setting is not recognizable and the names give no clue as to what country we might be in, the world in this book is not some horrific future. It can be found in the past and it can be seen in the present. This isn't a world we can prevent: it's one we're living in. That is what makes Grace such a haunting and uncomfortable read.

It would make a great book club pick. Although I kept wanting to take a break while reading, I already want to read it again. And I really want to talk about it too.

Market: Young Adult
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Moderate, a lot of this is implied, so it would depend what the reader picked up on and their own life experiences
Mature Themes: Suicide bombers. This is for the older end of YA

Book formats:
Grace (hardcover)
Grace (e-book)

To learn more about the author, visit: Elizabeth Scott


Anonymous said...

This is an amazing, thought-provoking novel. Wonderful review, Alexa!

Alix said...

Thank you Kim :)

Amy Finnegan {} said...

This sounds like such a chilling, compelling book. It's about a world that I can't comprehend for the life of me . . .

But having you describe it, I can understand why a story like this is needed.

I hate thinking about this type of lifestyle at all (it's so much easier to close my eyes and pretend it doesn't exist) but these people who are sacraficing their lives, and taking total strangers with them, are REAL people, and many of them probably aren't nearly as evil as we imagine they are.

Like this young girl, for example, who is brainwashed from birth to hate an entire group of people she's never even met.

What an interesting, brave topic for this author to tackle!

Five Seconds From Crazy said...

This sounds lovely. I'm putting this book on my list of must reads. The blog, The Idea Room, sent me this way and I'm so glad!

Laura Isham said...

Very interesting topic. This looks like its one of those books that you should read but maybe not one that you enjoy reading. I am intrigued.