Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Possession

Elana Johnson
Young Adult/Dystopian
416 pages
Simon & Schuster
Available June 7th
Received for review as part of the Cornucopia of Dsytopia Blog Tour

In Vi's world independent thought is discouraged. People think what they are told to think, plugged into daily transmissions from the governing bodies, their minds controlled by those who have the unique ability to influence those around them. But Vi has never been one to dutifully do as she's told.

Arrested for being with her best friend Zenn, a boy, after dark, she's taken to court and banished to the Badlands never to return. While awaiting her transfer, she's placed in a holding cell with Jag, a young man from the Badlands caught distributing illegal technology when he stole across the border between their territories.

In spending forced time with Jag, Vi begins to realize the "baddies" as they're called aren't really bad at all, and they seem to have more freedom than she's ever been granted. When she and Jag escape and go on the run, not only does she learn more about the Badlands, but she discovers she might have an important role to play in a building resistance against the Thinkers and those who would rule through absolute forced control.

In the world of Possession, utter complacency and total compliance are a result of those in power having the ability to exert an incredible level of mental control over the masses, operating under the questionable belief that a society of productive drones is better and stronger than one consisting of those would exercise their free will. Such a world makes us wonder if our own minds would be strong enough to resist as Vi's is, and if we answer yes, we then must ask ourselves if our backbones would be made of equally substantial material. Would our spines stay rigid and unyielding against a controlling force, or would we crumble under the sheer power of individuals like those depicted in this tale? Possession is a fascinating read, one of resistance versus submission, family versus family, and individual choice versus societal obligation, and we eagerly travel along with Vi as she shields her mind from outside influence and allows herself to think freely.

One of the more impressive aspects of this story is a stunning array of well-developed and entertaining characters, their thoughts and actions anchoring us in a foreign environment and wrapping us in the familiar blanket of human emotion amidst a future we do not want to imagine possible. Vi is a fighter, someone not content to simply follow rules that would mold her into someone she doesn't recognize, and whose smart, sassy mouth reflects a sharp mind and independent nature. Jag is a character of particular interest, his confidence in his status as a "baddie" and the ease with which he approaches his flouting of the "goodie" rules and regulations instantly appealing. We can't help but gravitate toward someone who knows exactly where his true allegiance lies and is perfectly comfortable with the actions he must take to ensure he helps his cause in whatever capacity he can. Their attraction to one another, though a bit hurried, is understandable given the context of their surroundings and current predicament, and their complex interactions have the potential to make them a romantic pair we remember for quite some time.

Though Ms. Johnson's characterization is beautifully executed and her writing style easy to read and enthralling, the plot is sometimes a bit difficult to follow. Events happen in rapid succession, and Vi and Jag's multiple escapes and subsequent repeat captures are often accompanied by the use of complicated technologies as well as cryptic remarks from those apprehending them. It becomes clear to us that Vi has a purpose, something unique to offer both the Thinkers and the resistance, but it sometimes feels as though we're swimming through muddy and tumultuous waters as we progress deeper into the story–just when a few pieces of information make things a bit clearer, a new wave crashes down on us, sweeping that clarity away and replacing it with murky truths, uncertain allegiances, and numerous questions.

The ending is left fairly open, not so much as to be tear-your-hair-out frustrating, but definitely enough to have us hoping there will be a second installment where we can revisit a world that, despite it's complex and sometimes confusing nature, houses characters who have become important to us. Ms. Johnson is certainly an author I will be following closely, anxiously awaiting whatever tale she might weave next.

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. Hmmm...I don't know what to think about this. I just finished Matched and feel like I'm done with the choice-less world theme for awhile. It does sound like a complicated book if things happen so quickly. Perhaps you'd need to read it twice to really get it. Definitely a good book for dystopian lovers. I love the butterfly cover.

  2. Based on your review, something about this one is reminding me of Incarceron. It may be a bit of a stretch, but the multiple escapes and cryptic messages just drew my mind there. I'm kind of feel like Alison about the choice less world theme. Though character development is important to me, and it sounds like Possession delivered there, I'm looking for something different to read at the moment.

    Lovely review, Jenny. I appreciate the breakdown you gave.

  3. Hm... I don't know. Still interested and love the cover. Cryptic messages. Ugh.. and frustration with questions lingering. Maybe I'll wait unti the next book. Then I might appreciate it more. Wonderful review as always!

  4. There have been so many dystopian books in the YA genre lately. I am glad to hear that the characterization is great - that's what matters to me the most. Thankfully the book's release date is still a few months away because right now I am kind of tired of this genre.

  5. I completely agree that the romance was hurried but I was willing to put that aside since they were in prison and living in close quarters. I also agree that sometimes it was hard to follow the action, especially since I'm not great at visualizing things. Overall though, I really enjoyed this one and loved the ending.

  6. Hmm, well I definitely dislike being confused with the plot when reading; I like to be able to sit back and enjoy the read without having to think about it too, too much. I'd definitely like to read it still though; I just can't get enough of dystopians lately it seems.

  7. Your first paragraph definitely grabbed my attention for this book. I do like the sound of Vi and how she fights against the people in control. I'm not a fan of books that feel rushed though, so I'll have to think about this one.

  8. Vi sounds awesome. I like characters that are fighters and have a little spark to them. Great review. I am definitely interested in reading this book despite it plot flaws :)

  9. I have been eyeing this book for a while now. Thanks for your review! It gives me a better insight on what this book is about!

  10. You know I really wish I liked Dystopian books better because I think they are about to flood the market. I just find them usually to be to depressing for me :(

    Great Review!

  11. Technically speaking, I love the synopsis of the novel, and the cover is beautiful. That said, I can't deal with a slow and lagging plot these days. I appreciate your honest review of this. I'm a bit on the fence.

  12. Alison - I think this is one I definitely need twice. It took me a while to figure out what they were fighting for, and now that I know, things might make more sense 2nd time around:)

    Missie - I can see how my description of it might sound like Incarceron a bit with all the escaping:) I loved Vi and Jag I just found myself confused sometimes as to what was happening and why:)

    Melissa - I love the cover as well! And the characters, I just wanted a bit more information on some of the plot developments:)

    Misha - Me too! And that's why I was able to gloss over some of the parts I didn't understand and just enjoy the character interactions:)

    Zahida - Completely agree, though their love was a bit rushed, it absolutely made sense in their case. The ending had me emailing Elana and begging to know if there was another book!

    Aylee - I really enjoy dystopians as well and I really liked this one, I just had to double back and re-check somethings as I was reading which took me a bit out of the story at times. Overall I'm a fan though:)

    Adriana - I really liked Vi, and the whole story is non-stop action so it's difficult to put down:)

    Nic - It's definitely worth a read despite the confusion (which could also be entirely on me, everyone else may understand perfectly and I'll be that girl that's like "whuh?").

    Savy - You're welcome, hope you give it a try!

    Felicia - They are a bit darker normally, but this one had a lot of lighter moments with Vi and Jag and their fun banter:)

    Melissa - The plot wasn't slow, it's full of action, I just got confused in some places because I wasn't entirely clear on Vi's overall purpose and why they wanted her so bad and how they even knew that she was special before she did. Might've been me though, I can be challenged and easily flummoxed sometimes;)

  13. Wow. Excellent thought provoking review. You're like a review super star!

  14. This is a dystopian Ive been looking forward to...I was hoping it would be "different" a stand out amoung the 1000+ dystops coming out. I think they are all just becoming the same story over and over again. I think Ill still read this because your review makes it sound awesome. But is it just me or is the dystopian genre becoming overdone???

  15. Wonderful review Jenny. Sounds like a very intense storyline.

  16. Hmmmm, I've been looking forward to this one - I can deal with a slightly lagging plot if the characterization is still good. Thanks for the review, Jenny. ha, I keep laughing at the term 'badlands' - so if you've been naughty, you get banished to Wyoming? *snort*

  17. Juju - Well thank you, I try:)

    Tina - I thought this one was different enough in terms of the details of the world even though the idea is similar to other dystopians:)

    Tori - Thanks! It was intense, I wouldn't mind if there was a book 2:)

    Linds - I really liked the characters, they more than made up for some of my confusion:) And yes, you get banished to Wyoming if you try to kiss a boy;)

  18. So what happens if you get preggers? I bet you get sent to live with the Real Housewives of the OC. With Vicki if it's twins. I just bet.

  19. I'm not sure about this one. I've read a number of YA dystopians lately that sound a lot like this one. And from what you said about the relationship, the guy here sounds like the guy from Delirium. I do like the cover, but I feel like taking a break from dystopians at the moment. :)

  20. I love characters, they make a book for me.

    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  21. I really like the strong, kick ass female characters so sounds like I'll like Vi.

  22. Hm, I have this one on pre-order so I will be reading it at some point. It sounds interesting, but not a 'blow your mind' read. Thanks for the great review.

  23. I'm sorry that you had trouble with this one, Jenny. It's particularly frustrating when you are confused about what is going on. Like you, great characters make or break a book for me so I can handle a plot with some flaws. I look forward to reading and reviewing this one next month.

  24. Linds - Horrors! Having to live with those women would be a severe punishment and would be a big enough threat to keep anyone in line:)

    Leanna - If you're a little burnt out on dystopians you may want to wait on this one, but there are a lot of positive elements in it that made it a good read:)

    Brandi - Me too:)

    Jenny - I loved Vi, I was rooting for her the whole time:)

    Slowest - Can't wait to see what you think of it!

    Rummanah - I did have some trouble, but I still enjoyed it overall because of Vi and Jag:) I'll be interested to read your thoughts on it next month!

  25. Sweet! I'm really looking forward to starting this of these days, I feel like I need to catch up! Great review Jenny! :)

  26. So, if you don't like dystopians you're going to miss out on a lot this year, right? Your review makes this one oh so tempting. I saw this one and immediately said no, but make me want to read it. Why do you have to be so good at your reviews???? I'm going to have to stand on the street corner to pay for my books. Err with my hand out, not the other way:)! Great Review!


  27. I know dystopia is the big thing now but come one publishers, we will get tired way to quick if you keep publishing more.

    Still..I like it ;)

  28. This sounds like an interesting bit of dystopian fiction. Although, it sadly reminds me of certain parts of the world today with the government preferring "a society of productive drones is better and stronger than one consisting of those would exercise their free will". I find that I'm intrigued how the author has presented this particular front.

    Although, lately I've had issues with authors who don't take the time to explain new and created terms and ideas. They prefer to have the reader continue reading to try and figure it out. Not that I don't eventually figure it out, but it is rough understanding parts without the prior knowledge of said terms/ideas. It still sounds like a good book, so I'm adding it to the TBR and I'll proceed with this post in mind. Thanks Jenny!!!

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  29. Hmm - this sounds interesting. I've seen this floating around on a couple of other blogs, but besides oogling over the pretty cover, I haven't really read much on it. And that's surprising, since I totally have a dystopia addiction.

    But this one might have to go on the backburner a little. While it sounds interesting, it's really hard for me to get through slow books, or to feel continuously confused about plot. I definitely want to read it at some point, but it's probably not going to be soon.

    Amazing review as always! ;D

  30. I love character driven novels and can overlook a confusing plot as long as the characterization is well done. I also love a good dystopian novel and this sound excellent. Another awesome review thanks.

  31. Jacinda - Hope you like it, I'm definitely interested in reading more from her:)

    Heather - Ha! Glad you enjoy the reviews:) Even with it's flaws, I still very much recommend this one.

    Blodeuedd - I'm a fan of dystopians, I just try to mix them in with my paranormal favorites and maybe a contemporary here and there and then I don't get overwhelmed by the volume of them being released:)

    Jen - I don't mind having to work somethings out along with the main character as she figures the world out, I just felt a little left behind at times on this one! Though like I said before, I could be special and no one else will have this problem:)

    Liz - If you're a big dystopian fan, I think this will probably be a great read for you despite the confusion:)

    Jan - That's exactly how I am, if I couldn't relate to the characters and I was confused, then this would have been an epic fail. The characters I loved though and they sucked me in even if I didn't entirely know what was going on.

  32. Thanks for the honest review. I have a hard time with confusing plots, but there's not doubt that I love dystopias. I may still check it out.

  33. I'm always open to dystopians. But depending on the world building some of them can get quite confusing. But I'm looking forward to this one!

  34. Once again a beautifully written review. I think I may wait on this book. If the plot is hard to follow, I'm not sure I would enjoy it.

  35. You do such an incredible job with your reviews. They are always so thorough and beautifully written.

    Thanks for your honest thoughts!

  36. The book's cover is fantastic and the story raises some interesting questions about individuality and society, not to mention the lengths you would go to to protect either.

    But, if Jag wanted to go to the Badlands, and they were being sent to the Badlands, why did they escape to get to the Badlands? Unless they were going to a prison there, and ten it makes sense. I don't know, it's just something that stuck out to me.

  37. Christina - It's worth a read for sure!

    Mollie - I just got a little confused now and then since things seemed to happen so quickly, I got disoriented a lot and had to re-read. I think if I read it again it would all make more sense:)

    Midnyte - Thank you! I was able to look past some of my confusion since the characters had me so interested, but it was hard to follow at times.

    Larissa - Thank you my dear!

    Jennifer - Yeah, I probably should have mentioned that Jag was scheduled for a different destination. I was a bit hazy on that part because originally Vi was sentenced to the Badlands and then it seemed like she got switched and was then going wherever Jag was going (which was a worse place than the Badlands it seemed), but either way, Jag wasn't going back to the Badlands, they were just put in the same holding cell:)

  38. I have had this book on my wishlist for quite some time now. Hopefully the flaws in the plot won't turn me too, too off from it.

    Thanks for the review Jenny! Have a great weekend!

  39. Lovely review! The character connection is such a huge determinant for me that I may be able to overlook the pace of the story. I am a sucker for anything dystopian and this seems to fit the dystopia mold perfectly.