Monday, July 15, 2013

Behind the Gates by Eva Gray (Tomorrow Girls Series)

The first in the Tomorrow Girls four book series, Behind the Gates sets the background for a near-future post-war world where young teens are sent away to safety.  North America struggles to survive a war with the mysterious group known as  The Alliance.  Canada is rumored to be saturated  Alliance agents.  Our main character Louisa, has grown up sheltered from the war due to the advantaged provided by her wealthy parents.  Her best friend Maddie is a somewhat more aware of how harsh life can be.  Her parents are both soldiers and not nearly as well off as Louisa's family.  The wealthy are able to send their children off to safety by paying for admittance into secret boarding schools.  Not even their parents will know where they are located. Communication is forbidden.
Louisa is nervous about being sent away to a boarding school -- but she's excited, too. And she has her best friend, Maddie, to keep her company. The girls have to pretend to be twin sisters, which Louisa thinks just adds to the adventure! Country Manor School isn't all excitement, though. Louisa isn't sure how she feels about her new roommates: athletic but snobby Rosie and everything's-a-conspiracy Evelyn. Even Maddie seems different away from home, quiet and worried all the time. Still, Louisa loves CMS -- the survival skills classes, the fresh air. She doesn't even miss not having a TV, or the internet, or any contact with home. It's for their own safety, after all. Or is it?

I wasn't expecting much from this book other than a quick read and hopefully some smart-not-silly female protagonists.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I fell easily into the narrative, travelling along with Louisa and Maddie.  Hints of tension lace the story from the beginning preparing the reader for the big reveal.  Louisa feels safe at her new school and even enjoys the unusual but exciting classes.  Still,  she and her roommates can't help but notice that there's something odd about their classes and surroundings.

I liked this book not only for the characters and plot, but because it is clearly written for brand-new teens.  The popularity of dystopian novels has captured the interest of many of my younger students whose  comprehension and reading maturity have not yet reached the level in the most popular titles.  Eva Gray managed to bring to life a dystopian world without the violence and bloodshed and moral ambiguity found in much of the genre.
She also manages to leave the reader hanging on the last page, prompting a mad rush to get the next in the series.

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