Pawn by Aimee Carter

(From Goodreads)

YOU CAN BE A VII. IF YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING.

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.

***

Pawn is a fast-paced political thriller that explores the standard dystopian tropes of social stratification and government corruption with a dash of science fiction mixed in. The novel takes place in the former United States in the distant future, after an exploding population depletes the country’s resources and plummets citizens into the worst famine in history. In response, the Hart family assumes power under the guise of eradicating the problem–now, citizens take a test on their 17th birthday that determines their ranking (I to VII, with I being the worst and VII being reserved only for members of the royal family) and their role in society. Naturally, this means everyone gets what they deserve and are rewarded only for their merits! …J/K, basically everyone is miserable and starving, because screw poor people, that’s why.

The book is told in Kitty’s point of view, and oddly, this seems to be its major flaw. She’s just not very interesting and empathetic to me, but I can’t really pinpoint why. She’s determined and intelligent with a strong moral compass, but at the same time she’s extremely naive and a bit too idealistic. There were a couple times where I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and groan with frustration when she decided to put her conscience before everything else. I understand the hesitation, especially for a 17-year-old, but considering what’s she been through and what she’s seen happen to her friends and family, you’d think she’d have learned to pull on her big girl panties and get over it. She’s also very selfish, which is, again, understandable, but reluctant, wishy washy heroes don’t make good thrillers.

The romance between Kitty and Benjy (who in the world named these kids?) also feels lackluster. Their relationship seems underdeveloped, with no true context given for their undying loyalty and passion for one another… I mean, they’re 17, for God sake. Slow down and smell the roses. Benjy is a nice enough kid, but he gets no real characterization other than him being incredibly smart and a lovesick puppy dog. I would have loved to see him show some weird quirks or rattle off a Shakespearean poem from memory or take charge and make some changes of his own – something tangible that could make him seem like a real person rather than a cardboard cut-out – but in the end he’s only there as Kitty’s burden and plaything. Maybe this will change in the sequel, but right now Benjy blends in with the wallpaper.

But let’s talk about what Pawn does have going for it: It diverges from the dystopian formula early on, with a lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing (and reading). On the other hand, there is SO much going on here that it gets convoluted and over the top really quickly. The complex social issues explored are also great food for thought, but I felt they could’ve been fleshed out more. Overall, the political intrigue and suspense delivered a refreshing change of pace for the genre, but the characters diluted the impact of the plot. 3/5

**I received an eBook copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review**

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