Short Summary: Avene, our heroine, was sent to the prison (locally referred to as “Dead Man’s End” because no one who goes in leaves, dead or alive) by her step-father, and the governor, J.D. King, for allegedly assisting (or something) her step-brother, Gavin, kill her mother who was found stabbed in I think Gavin’s room. That was a recurring theme for most of the prisoners in Dead Man’s End. They weren’t really criminals, but were sent there at King’s whim. Every year, a nine-day race is held for prisoners to retrieve Gavin or his head from a semi-neighboring town called Millers Creek. The prize: FREEDOM (and a house and some money, but who cares about those, right?)!! If they fail, but manage to come back, they get upgraded to a leisure prison with their own room, bathroom, 3 meals a day, the works. So really, not too bad a deal even if they fail.
Avene”s pissy because, even though she signs up for the race year after year (for 3 years), she is never allowed to go. Anyway, her friend, Zita, works out a plan where she signs up her name for the race, but Avene would take her place and they succeed. Everything isn’t rainbows and butterflies, though, because one of the infuriating prisoners from the next cell, McCoy, signs up for the race as well, to protect the sweet Zita, if the plan had backfired and she was forced to participate in the race, or Avene, if it succeeded. As an added hazard, cannibals roam the area between Water Junction (where Dead Man’s End is) and Millers Creek. So will they succeed? Will they bring back Gavin (or his head) and earn freedom? Or will they get eaten by cannibals first?
Quick Review (and I mean quick): The book was okay. I think a number of people are comparing it to The Hunger Games trilogy, but that hasn’t been an issue for me. The book’s also pretty short, which may bother some people, as the characters and story weren’t hashed out too much, but it’s fine with me, coz I don’t mind less descriptions of scenery and whatnot. The beginning started out strong for me but the middle was pretty dull and dragged on, and the ending/twist was interesting and a cliffhanger.
That’s it. 2/5 stars because the writing wasn’t horrible and the story wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t that fun, either.
Now, for the SPOILERS! And my thoughts and questions ie MY RANT xD
1. Verla. Oh my gosh I HATE HER. Verla is Avene’s late close friend who imparted many, many proverbs that the author brought up every few pages. I mean, was she really necessary? Couldn’t she just have learned the stuff she supposedly learned from Verla from her time at the prison???? She seems like such a meh plot device. An annoying and meh plot device.
2. McCoy. I really, really didn’t like Avene’s attitude towards him. One minute, she’d be all, shucks, I like him, the next, damn, he’s probably gonna betray him. Which, okay, is helpful so she doesn’t die in the prison or whatever, but it’s not as if McCoy suddenly showed interest in her after the race started. He obviously had a thing for her from the start, helping her out with food and whatnot. And okay, so when he might die, she suddenly realized she loved him??? And then after a while, she was still suspicious of him. Make up your mind, please.
There was also a part where Avene lashed out at him and said he wanted to bring her back to King in exchange for his freedom (King apparently told the other prisoners that they would also gain freedom by bringing her back alive, even without Gavin) and I thought he reacted so nicely. He should’ve slapped her and reminded her how he risked his life to join the damned race to protect her. Not counting the times he secretly helped her with food. Srsly, gurl.
3. Zita. She didn’t seem all that useful except as a plot device so Avene could join the race. Poor Zita.
4. The Race. I don’t get why King didn’t want Avene to be part of the race, but when she somehow joined, he added a bounty to her head. Plus, the added collar.
4.a. Why didn’t King just kill them when they were in the middle of the race by tightening the collar? Why the drama with the key (which was apparently legit) and the tightening of the collar every 3 days?
4.b. And are the collars broken?????? Jake’s tightened too soon; Kurt’s didn’t tighten enough to kill him.
4.c. Why didn’t they try to figure out a way to remove the collar? When Jake died, they had a collar they could tinker with to their heart’s content. Also, it’s not like it had a self-destruct if you try to mess with me thing, so why did they just accept it and not try to remove it? Then they could’ve escaped or, in Avene’s case, taken the time to hunt down Gavin in peace.
4.d. Didn’t they become thin even a bit? Shouldn’t the collar have been looser after a while? Haha.
5. British devil smile guy. Why didn’t he know who Avene was (and her added bounty)? Did he fall asleep during that part of the briefing.
6. Kurt. So in the prison, he’s some tall tough guy (and not like McCoy who’s tall but is nice), but suddenly, he helped out Avene and friends near the end? Like, oh you were secretly nice all this time, and the tough guy act was just a persona. I didn’t see a hint of that in the beginning so I was kinda surprised and disbelieving.
7. Joselle. How was she accepted by the cannibals (and not eaten)? And sooooo she’s a cannibal now? xD
8. Avene. When she realized King wanted her captured, why in heck did she think he would hold up his part of the deal and release her collar?????? Like, srsly, how thick is she? Like, oh he wants me captured, and probably dead, but IN FRONT OF THE TOWNSPEOPLE, he won’t do anything.
9. Gavin. Avene didn’t recognize him? Really??????????? I mean, how much could he have changed? And srsly, if he were a wanted man, why did everyone think he stayed put in Millers Creek. Avene didn’t even question it. Also, I wonder why Avene never questioned his guilt. Sure, there’s the journal thing, but it might have been planted. If he looked out for her all those years, why did he want her dead???
10. Knife-throwing lessons. Why did King insist on it for Gavin and Avene? Did he totally just want to pin his wife’s death on them in the future? xD Like, how random.
11. Jake. I wonder why he aligned with those brutes at the start of the race. He turned out to be this sweet, naive, kid. Did they threaten him? And why did McCoy trust him so quickly? He tied him down then the next day, no one guarded him at all.
I think I had other concerns, but I never bothered writing anything down so I don’t remember. But really, for such a short book, I already have a number of questions. It doesn’t bode well. I do want to know what happens next, just for curiosity’s sake, but I don’t know if I want to wade through everything, just for closure.
So yeah, rating of 2/5. With the possibility of reading the next book. Then again, maybe not.