Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Cage by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
Format I Read: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, (Romance)
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

Ever since I saw the cover for this book, I've been dying to get my hands on it. It sounded fantastically intriguing and I loved Megan Shepherd's ideas--her retellings of classics seem so fascinating. I couldn't wait to see what she'd whipped up for The Cage. Unfortunately, I think this set my expectations up too high. The book was well done, with a captivating concept, but it just fell a little flat.

For those who haven't heard of The Cage, here's the synopsis:

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

The book started off great--Shepherd immediately sucked me in with the intrigue and mystery of the cage. She hinted at Cora's past, which involves eighteen months in a juvenile detention center. She then hinted at Lucky's connection to her past. It sparked an immediate interest in the characters. I became invested in them right away. They were just so likable and captivating at the beginning. Shepherd continues to develop this interest by alternating the chapters' focus, designating certain chapters to certain characters (though she remained in third person the entire time). This created a very interesting effect. Unfortunately, it didn't really resonate with me. I found it a little too confusing and disorienting!

Unfortunately, for me, the book started going downhill around halfway through. The only thing that really kept me reading was my psychology class I took last year. If I hadn't taken psychology, I may have dropped the book, if I'm completely honest. I just started to hate the characters so much. They all turned on each other; all of that likability that I described at the beginning faded away and I wanted to throttle just about everyone. The entire cast of characters grew so petty and delusional. The sole reason I continued was because I justified it all with psychology. It was nice how Shepherd kept referencing lab rats and using the psychological experiment reference; it helped remind me that the degradation of the characters was expected. It wasn't because of Shepherd's bad character development--it was the natural psychological response when stuck in captivity with six other people. This helped me keep going. I just don't deal well with novels like this; other people may love it!

As the book went on, the only solid base that remained was Cora. She was the only one who held strong and the only one who I remained even remotely partial to. But then she had to go and fall for her captor! She just became so flimsy as the book went on. She rants and raves about how she's always treated like a victim, how she's really stronger than anyone else thinks. But she keeps giving in to her attraction to Cassian (one of the aliens, or Kindred, who kidnapped her) and swooning over him?! I just felt like her character traits (both as described by Shepherd and as described by Cora herself) did not match her actions whatsoever. She was strong one second but weak the next. It grated on my nerves a bit. Luckily, my dislike for her only really developed at the very end of the novel. For most of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed her as a main character.

Nonetheless, I loved the whole concept of the book. The idea that more advanced and intelligent aliens could use humans the same way that we use animals. The idea that humans could be looking out of the zoo (or cage) instead of looking in. It was all such a fascinating idea. I also enjoyed what a puzzle the book was. The reader never really knew what was going on; I felt like every other chapter had a big reveal. It kept me on my toes and made me constantly wonder what was going to happen next. One thing The Cage has going for it: it wasn't predictable!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the concept! The execution was a little rocky and disorienting, though that may simply be because the idea was an ambitious one to tackle. However, the biggest nail in the 3-star-coffin was the devolution of the characters. I understand why it had to happen and I don't fault Shepherd for it at all; it just wasn't the best read for me because I can't handle when characters become so frustrating!

Even so, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books like Alienated by Melissa Landers or anyone who enjoys psychological novels. It was an interesting and innovative read!

Well done on such an ambitious new book, Ms. Shepherd!