Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review: REBOOT by Amy Tintera

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Oh guys, we have another pokeable book on our hands. I can't settle on my final feelings for this book.

When I first started, I was excited and confused. The beginning is fantastic. How can I not like a book with the first line "They always screamed"? We're immediately tossed into Wren's world, a world where a virus causes humans (mostly children) to rise from the dead as Reboots, humanoid beings with extraordinary senses and ranges of emotions that depend on how long they were dead. As someone who had Rebooted after 178 minutes - a record - Wren is considered to be the least human and most perfect Reboot in existence.

However, much of the information comes out in jumbled pieces, hence my confusion. I couldn't get a handle on Wren's world at first. Reboots are clearly used as enforcers and foot soldiers, both the might and the fear the HARC (rulers of the United Cities of Texas) use to keep the populace in check. But it wasn't until well into the book until I could clearly grasp whether the Reboots are viewed as prized specimens or as useful freaks. (It's the latter, if you're wondering.)

As the story went on, I managed to cobble together what I needed to know and quickly became interested in Wren's story, especially as I realized what Ms. Tintera was trying to accomplish. Reboot, at its core, is a very exciting twist on a world that has been reordered after a zombie apocalypse, and its story is told by one of those zombies.

The structure of Reboots, both physically and socially, is fascinating. Any human that is infected by KDH (named after Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where the virus originated) and dies will Reboot. Some infected die as a direct result of KDH, while others die in other ways (Wren was shot in the slums) and Reboot regardless. As someone who remained dead over 120 minutes, Wren is one of the elites and is used as both super-soldier and Reboot trainer, while her roommate Ever is an Under-60 and only good for manual labor and general soldiering. Even more interesting is how Ms. Tintera manages to work in the more rabid aspects of standard zombie lore, but I'll leave that be for the sake of avoiding spoilers.

Opposite of Wren on the spectrum is Callum, a new recruit whom Wren decides to train. Awkward, gangly, overly friendly, and totally cute, Callum is a mere 22 - human bait in the eyes of other Reboots. At first I found Callum almost annoying in his stubborn insistence to remain upbeat. He refuses to fear Wren or any of the other Reboots and seems completely oblivious to the severity of his situation. However, as the story progressed, that dang boy grew on me to the point that I jokingly threatened to hunt down Ms. Tintera should anything happen to him. (He also made my Book Boyfriends list last week.)

A good deal of the ticking clock mechanism Ms. Tintera uses to fuel the intensity of the plot centers around Callum, so I found myself engaged and invested. Unfortunately, I never connected to the book. I suspect this failing is tied to three factors. First, I never connected to Wren. While I appreciated the visual of a teeny blonde girl being the most feared individual in a warehouse of super-soldiers, I never got the swagger from her that I wanted. Also, Wren never connected with herself, so, as my narrator, how could she hope to connect with me?

Second, I didn't buy in to the key difficulty of the Reboots at all. The big sticking point with Reboots is supposed to be their lack of emotion. Supposedly, Reboots are cold, empty, subhuman creatures. Given that this is a dystopian tale, we may eye this "truth" suspiciously from the very beginning. However, there should be some element of truth to explain why all the humans so readily believed it even during the initial outbreak of the virus.

From what I could tell, Wren supposes herself to be without emotion because she doesn't outwardly express emotion. As a 22, Callum smiles, laughs, tells jokes, frowns, etc.; therefore, he feels emotion. Wren does not exhibit these behaviors; therefore, she feels nothing. And yet, from the very beginning, Wren describes the emotions she's feeling. She is irritated by humans when they scream; she sometimes feels guilt when dispatching a criminal; she is confused by Callum; she is embarrassed by his attentions. Though not smiles and giggles, these are nevertheless feelings.

Look. He's not smiling. He must be an emotionless Reboot.
I felt as though I were reading an extrovert's guide to introverts. The world is set up where those who display overt emotions - extroverts - are the default, the most human. Those who are more inhibited - introverts - are at first viewed as cold, robotic subhumans. Then, over the course of time, the good humans are slowly shown that the poor, quiet freaks are not bad, just different. Perhaps this is oversimplifying the book or portraying it in a false light, but that's how it felt to me. While a naturally gregarious person might have be snookered in to Wren's growth, I found myself crying foul from the very beginning. If I'm to realistically believe that what the characters believe, even if only for a moment, then the setup has to be credulous. Had Reboot actually shown Wren's change and growth from emotionless Reboot to a nearly human, emotional being (a la Warm Bodies), I would have been interested. But nothing in Wren supported the premise I had been promised (or thought I had been promised).

Lastly, there were just some beyond stupid moments in this book. For instance, at one point Wren learns of a super-secret Reboot camp that the HARC have been trying to destroy. She doesn't learn of this super-secret place through spying or any such thing. No, a captured rebel talks about it with his fellow (undercover) rebel right in front of her. Maybe it's just me, but if I were a rebel, I wouldn't be divulging my side's secrets right in front of the most prized, supposedly least human Reboot in the entire world. But hey, that's just me.

You know what's also just me? If I were faced with a ticking clock that demands a sense of urgency and haste, I probably wouldn't pick the middle of my desperate dash for freedom to engage in sexytimes with my love interest. I was talking about this particular point with two other bloggers (Gillian and Molli), and we all agreed that ill-timed makeout sessions are extremely annoying. If every second counts and even the smallest delay could result in death, why would it be okay to stop for no good reason and start kissing? If you have energy to kiss, you have energy to run! Also, and this is the big thing, it completely ruins both the pacing and the mood for the reader. As a reader, I can't be in the middle of RUN FOR YOUR LIIIIIVES mode and then switch to ha-cha-cha mode and believably still hold onto the sense of tension.
I'm all...
And they're all...
So I'm all...

The last big stupid moment was the ending. I was beyond disappointed with the ending. The story was set up for Ms. Tintera to do something totally cool and even tragic at the end. Instead of a metaphorical explosion, everything fizzled. The big action scene was over and done within a few pages. The ticking clock stopped with little-to-no to-do. La-la, skip and a jump, and we're set up with a small scene that leads into the sequel. Rather than leave me gasping for breath and begging for more, the ending left me shrugging.

Do you all see my difficulty? I wanted to love this book. I've lusted after it for months. It has a great premise, and I adore the romantic interest. On the other hand, I didn't connect with the protagonist, the premise ended up not being super-convincing, and I rolled my eyes on several occasions. It's bad to make me roll my eyes.

While I would like to shout my love to the heavens, I must instead settle with a half-shrug and a nod of my head. I will most likely check out the inevitable sequel, and I do think Reboot will appeal to certain readers. I encourage you all to check it out and decide for yourselves.

Favorite (Non-Spoilery) Quote:
"Forgive me?" he asked as he put his fists in position. His eyes were big and round, like a puppy begging for a treat.

Yes," I said with a laugh.

"Do it again," he said, bouncing up and down in happiness.

"Do what?"


"Make you a deal. If you're able to punch me, I'll laugh.

"You're so weird."
Points Added For: Callum, Ever (oh, how I love you Ever), a great take on zombies.

Points Subtracted For: Not living up to potential, bobbling the premise concerning emotions, a dud of an ending.

Good For Fans Of: Non-traditional zombies, kick-butt chicks, viruses.

Notes For Parents: Language, violence, making out.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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