Proxy by Alex London

Proxy by Alex London
Publisher: Philomel Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (380 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.

What caught my eye about this book in the beginning was the title: Proxy. Since I worked in municipal government in the past, I knew that meant you were using someone as a stand-in for you. I was really hooked when I found out that being proxy in this story means you receive all the punishment that your patron deserves. What kind of a world was this?

Mr. London writes a very intense story that grabs your attention right at the beginning. The world he creates is definitely a world of haves and have nots. The have nots have nothing, the patrons have everything. And even the very rich wish to be richer. No two worlds could be more different and these “worlds” are part of the same one. The author makes all his characters strong. They are driven by different motivations, but no one is weak.

The two main characters are Knox, the spoiled patron, and Syd, his proxy. Syd has been beaten, tortured, and made to work in grueling jobs just to pay for Knox’s transgressions. They never see each other, although Knox has seen him punished before on video. Knox just can’t seem to care much about it. So his father decides it’s time for him to learn a lesson. He lets him steal a car and then waits for him to injure himself. When Knox next awakens, he’s in the hospital and has killed the girl he had with him. Syd has to give half his blood to Knox to keep Knox alive and now he’ll be punished for the girl’s death.

By pure chance, the two boys connect and begin running from Knox’s father. While this sounds far-fetched, the author does a very good job of making it seem feasible and normal for this world. The world outside the compound is nothing like they thought, friends are not what they seemed, the dead girl is alive, and the two boys don’t hate each other.

Mr. London does an excellent job of creating a dystopian world full of sinister plots, dangers around every corner, and lots of tensions between the three characters who are on the run. What really shocked me was his ending. It’s one of the most ironic endings I’ve read in a long time. The whole story impressed me so much, I’m keeping my ARC of this book for my personal library. I can read this one again and see more in the story. I was reading so fast this time, I might have missed some. The best news: There will be more in this series.

If you have any interest in dystopian fantasy or future worlds or just plain good science fiction, you’ll want to read Proxy. It’s written for young adults, but it’s a keeper for me and I’m an older adult. Give it chance or you won’t know what you’re missing.

Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey

Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey
Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin)
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, YA
Length: Full Length (387 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.

With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make awager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem, “Annabel Lee,” Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love.

Liam is cursed by the past while Anna is privileged and free. When the two come together again on the timeless island of Dòchas, it seems as if they’d never been apart. With a love as strong as theirs, it’s no wonder the Otherworlders not only sit up and take notice, but decide to place a wager on the strength of their love.

Liam McGregor is quite the fascinating character. Convinced from birth that he’s harboring a demon within him, he strives to keep his head above water and simply survive. However, despite the hatred and bigotry from the community surrounding him, he immerses himself in the beauty of the written word and the world of art. What I found most impressive was that, even though Liam only had the use of one arm, he still managed to paint, draw, and hold down a job. Even when everyone around him swears he’s evil incarnate, he doesn’t let it get him down. He just accepts it – for better or for worse – and continues to do what he needs to survive.

Anna Leighton, on the other hand, starts out as just another spoiled rich girl slumming it at her parent’s ancestral home on the island. However, her character probably has the most growth over the course of the novel. She evolves from a rather self-centered and self-absorbed teen and becomes a selfless, loving woman. There were moments where I didn’t like Anna very much, but she always managed to redeem herself later.

Ashes on the Waves is a beautiful and haunting retelling of one of my favorite Poe poems, “Annabel Lee”. The author did an amazing job translating the darkness and strength of the narrator’s love for Annabel Lee into a gripping novel. Although the ending left me feeling a bit cheated, every page leading up to that point was pure enjoyment. A very enjoyable, if heartbreaking novel, Ashes on the Waves was nothing like I’d expected, but everything I had hoped it could be.