Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups
What a pleasant surprise! I didn’t realise I’d added Landry Park to my mental list entitled “just another dystopia” until it managed to completely prove me wrong. My first thought after finishing this book is that it’s probably more suited to fans of historical fiction than the typical dystopia. The style of writing, the plot, the characters and the setting all feel like something straight out of an historical novel. If you ask me, it worked very well.
The story starts as I might have expected. There’s a female protagonist, it’s set in a future United States (no longer so united), something has happened to change the social order, there’s a hot guy, there’s a bitchy girl… you know how this one goes, right? Because you’ve seen all this a million times, yes? Well, apparently not. As the story unravels, more questions arise and characters receive greater development. The world-building is spread over the novel but is refreshingly intricate and fascinating. The story is full of surprises, both in the main plot line and in the cast of characters. And sometimes who can resist a bit of the backstabbing, rivalry and family scandals found beneath the riches and pretty ballgowns of the upper classes?
This “dystopia” (or perhaps “utopia”, depending on your point of view) is all about class. It’s about wealth, knowledge, power and the relationship between the three. The setting is the beautiful Landry estate in a future United States which is ruled by the gentry. The main character – Madeline Landry – has lived in luxury her whole life and has long known her destiny to be the next ruler of the Landry estate. But Madeline has always been a bit feisty and rebellious. She isn’t sure she’s ready to walk down the path her family has laid out for her. As she begins to discover the truth behind the society in which she lives, she finds herself obligated to challenge the poor treatment of the Rootless (the lowest class in society). But her good intentions prove to be more dangerous than she could have imagined and she starts to unearth secrets that have been hidden for generations.
What I really liked most of all was the way each character was handled. Hagen introduces us to individuals who we think we know at first, we think we can slot them into neat categories of heroine, love interest and mean girl. But each one is more than that. I love it when YA authors don’t neglect complex character development and remember that people are multilayered. Each character surprised me in Landry Park and I especially loved the friendship that grew between Madeline and Cara when it had first seemed as if they were typical teen girl rivals.
Beautifully written, occasionally dark and surprisingly addictive… I hate the term “an author to watch” but I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books by Ms Hagen.