Published: December 1st 2013 by HarlequinTeen
Format: Paperback, 343 pages
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For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.
If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.
There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.
Aimée Carter’s foray into dystopian fiction is an interesting read which I liked, although I am ambivalent about Pawn overall. On one hand, I liked the world and its characters, and on the other hand, I disliked them too.
The dystopian world of Pawn is engrossing. Everyone is given a test on their seventeenth birthday, and their performance determines their rank for the rest of their life. The ranks go from 1 to 7, with the ruling class being VII’s and those deemed unfit for society being I’s. The fallacy of this idea is explored throughout the story: on the surface it seems fine that everyone is given the same test, but of course it doesn’t matter if the tests are the same if the rich folk send their kids to tutors and the poorer kids don’t even learn how to read properly. And of course, those of the higher classes don’t even sit the tests and their ministerial positions are inherited. I think this aspect of the world was my favourite, and I love how Carter has commented on present-day society and the way we think in her novel. Many dystopias are horrible in an abstract sense, but I felt that, on this level, the world of Pawn is already one we see around us.
But that’s where my admiration for the world-building ends. I think the world suffers from a lack of execution: we’re told this is a horrible place to live but rarely ever shown it. Oh yes, there’s the truth about Elsewhere (which I guessed the moment the idea was introduced), but for the most part, we’re meant to take Kitty’s word for it and not witnessing it for ourselves. Kitty’s had a hard life, yes, and her dyslexia doesn’t make things any easier for her, especially in a world where one’s future is decided through a written test. But none of these things really make it OK to rebel against the system just because she didn’t like the score she’d been given. She only found out about the gross injustices in her world afterwards. Initially, she’s just a whiny brat who picked becoming a prostitute over cleaning sewers, all because of some very shaky reasoning.
Kitty came across as a very confused and ultimately unrealistic character for me. I found it very hard to follow her reasoning for why she wanted to become a prostitute for a month, but I’m even more flummoxed at why she was okay with selling her virginity but then later on, didn’t want to pretend to be Knox’s fiancé and kiss him? I mean, if ‘for survival’ is the reason behind the former, wouldn’t it also be used to justify the latter? But hey, this YA, so she doesn’t sell off her virginity, and nothing progresses beyond kissing anyway.
I found it difficult to believe that Kitty could learn how to be another person, and do it convincingly, after just two weeks of training. Similar to my issues with Tandem, I just think it’s unbelievable that Kitty was able to pull off such a transformation and, in particular, that she was able to give a rousing speech to thousands of people despite having never spoken in public before.
The two boys in this story (and thank all your stars there’s no love triangle) are polar opposites. Benjy is an open book. He’s honest and loyal, and completely devoted to Kitty, which I love. Knox is an enigma, hiding many secrets and always working to his own agenda. They played off each other nicely, and their relationships with Kitty were interesting.
Having read so many dystopias in the past, I can’t really say anything about Pawn surprised me. I think it was quite predictable, but I still liked it because of the ideas that are present in the narrative. I think someone who doesn’t read as much as me in this genre will enjoy the secrets, lies and politics.
Pawn is a good dystopian read that fans of the genre will enjoy. I liked it and will be looking forward to the sequel, but ultimately it failed to wow me or sweep me away. Which is a shame because I enjoyed The Goddess Test novels.