THE LIMITKristen Landon
In this middle grade dystopian novel, we meet Matt. A young, brilliant math geek whose not-so-brilliant parents have gone over their "limit" -- the government-imposed debt limit. What this means for Matt is that he's sent away to a workhouse to help pay off the debt until his family gets back under the limit. What he's expecting to be a child slave camp is actually pretty cushy; he tests into the Top Floor, which is reserved for the smartest kids who do the most difficult work, and suddenly he has everything he could want. New clothes and gadgets are just a click away and he's free to spend most of his time playing sports or video games with his fellow Top Floors. But, as with every dystopia, all is not as it seems. Children on the other floors are having massive headaches, sometimes even seizures, and when his own sister ends up suffering a seizure when she arrives at the workhouse, he becomes convinced that something bad is going on around him. This, along with the fact that he's forbidden to leave the top floor or go outside, pushes Matt to risk everything to discover what's really happening in the workhouse.
This was an enjoyable and interesting book, however I did have some issues with it. The main problem I had was that it took a long time to really get going -- it was well past the 50 page mark before I felt like I had to finish it. Page 137 to be exact, which is nearly halfway through the book. There's a lot of set up here that I doubt many kids would sit through (just like I almost didn't). The characters are likable however, as with much else in this book, it took a long time to get to know them. For much of the book I wasn't sure who, aside from Matt, the main characters really were, and though the relationships are believable and well written, I did feel a lack of connection since everything exciting happened so late in the book. To be honest, pacing was an issue throughout (which knocked major points off of what was an otherwise very interesting and captivating plot), with the first half of the book nearly at a stand-still and the ending coming very quickly, skipping a few scenes I would have loved to see, and going right into what read like an epilogue.
There's a clear message of delayed gratification and living within your means here, although it seemed out of place since that wasn't quite the evil badness that these Matt and his friends were up against. Also, as much as I believe that life lessons can be woven into books well, this one seemed a bit heavy-handed in its message that seemed more fit for teenagers and adults than children in the first place -- though I could be wrong on that. Still, as unsure as I was of the message, the plot of this book had me hooked once it finally got going, and I admit that I read a few pages during school when I really should have been paying attention to class instead. In the end, despite the pacing problems it had, I'm so glad I read this book because I really did enjoy it, and while I wouldn't recommend it for reluctant readers, in some ways it reminds me of the SHADOW CHILDREN series form years back, and I think dystopian fans will be glad they read it.