Overpopulation and limited resources. It’s not difficult to imagine, since we’re currently facing these obstacles, but fortunately not (yet) to the degree that they are presented in Simone Pond’s The City Center.
Eighteen year old Ava Rhodes is a favorite contender to succeed the current Queen, yet this is not at all what Ava wants for herself. She doesn’t care for the restrictive class rules that prohibit her from spending time with her friend of a different class, Delilah, eating the food that she wants, or spending her time in the way she desires. In Chief Morray’s city, everything is closely monitored through embedded technology while there is the constant threat from the Outsiders. When Outsider Joseph breaks into the city to sow the seeds of doubt among the citizens, he meets Ava and gives her a secret journal, which Ava can’t read without a black market program, because reading wasn’t ever needed. When Ava has more questions for Joseph about the journal after he’s captured by Morray’s guards, she helps him escape to the Outside to prevent his execution. Morray, enthralled by the unique Ava, begins his pursuit to retrieve her at whatever cost while she runs and hides with Joseph.
The concept of the story was intriguing enough, though much of the story arc is reminiscent of (and derivative of) various other dystopian narratives out there–and The Hunger Games comes to mind most prominently as one of the most successful of this type of dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic society. The love aspect of the story was up there in the Twilight category of “yuck” at the rapidity to a proclamation of love–it was highly unbelievable to me; yes, you might be attracted to someone instantly and, yes, you might have strong feelings for them, but to instantly claim that you love them after mere hours? Come on! Not to mention that this kind of dependency on a guy undermines the agency and power of the female protagonist–I’m fully behind the idea that not all female protagonists need to be a strong, warrior woman, but it’d be nice to step more fully away from the Victorian model of women with ideas and little physical action and independence.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.