Flash Point by Nancy Kress - Book Review #1
deadly competition (i.e. The Hunger Games) + reality TV show featuring attractive teenagers (i.e. The Selection) + future Great Depression
In the near future, the United States experiences the Collapse: a horrific economic meltdown that's made most Americans poor and desperate. Amy signs up for a daring new reality TV show in order to support her family (a dying grandmother and a stupid, selfish little sister), and perhaps pay for her college education. This new show (with a very stupid title) features testing the contestants in a series of "scenarios" that features plenty of psychological and physical dangers. After some teenager shenanigans and ever horrifying "scenarios", Amy and her new found allies plots to overthrow the evil producers and the television company.
This book does a great job showcasing a setting that's extremely realistic. Many readers would be profoundly disturbed as Nancy Kress paints a world that is very much like ours. In Flash Point, the elderly die due to lack of healthcare coverage, college remains out of reach due to high tuition costs, and young people forced to work in unsavory jobs (e.g. prostitution). The author does a good job showing how desperate times makes people take desperate measures. Except for the owners of the evil corporation, all the antagonists are portrayed as simply trying to survive. The "evil" TV producer isn't really evil; just like Amy, she got a family to feed as well. The public, who obsessively watch the reality show even though it clearly puts the contestants in danger, are simply seeking an escape from their wretched lives (and also to win some money-there is a participation prize). Furthermore, Nancy Kress makes you really care and root for Amy as she selflessly tries to make something out of this horrific world.
The main problem with the plot is that it's very predictable. If you're a fan of great plot twists, this isn't a good book for you. Also, I don't think the parts about Amy's "phantoms" and the holograms the reality show used were necessary for this book. The author didn't explain clearly what Amy's hallucinations were about. The holographic technology (think Star Trek's holodecks) appears to be quite unrealistic, and doesn't generate as much tension in the plot as the author intended.
4 of 5
A decent standalone YA novel which features a scarily realistic apocalyptic world and a great protagonist to root for.
Sci-Fi/Fantasy Hardness Scale
topaz (8 of 10)
The setting of a United States experiencing an economic collapse, and how that determines what the characters do, is extremely realistic. Amy's "phantoms" and the holographic technology are a bit too much of a stretch.