Author: Monica Hesse
Published: 6 June 2013 by Hot Key Books
Length: 352 pages
Summary : Lona Sixteen Always is not herself - quite literally. She lives her life virtually through the experiences of Julian, a boy who was chosen as a role model for the Pathers of Quadrant 1 - troubled children who have been 'rescued' by the government and put 'on-Path'. But one day Lona finds she can think for herself. And on top of that, the face of a familiar boy appears on her screen - Fenn, who she thought had moved on to a different stage of the Path last year. But he didn't. Fenn and other rebels like him have strayed from the Path, and now Lona must stray too. But life off-Path is strange and difficult, and Lona uncovers a secret that will threaten all their lives. Can there really be life after the Path?
Review: In this world, children who would otherwise be lost are put into the Path system, and spend 23 hours a day being Julian, a boy who lived fifty years ago and had his life deemed perfect. Lona has been on the path for sixteen years, and can’t imagine any other life. Until Fenn, a boy from her past, appears in the simulation. Deemd to have gone Off-Path, Lona is taken out of the program and thrust into a new world, uncovering secrets regarding other Off-Pathers who die before they’re nineteen, things about who she is, and where the Path will lead you.
This is an amazingly original idea. The world of the Path, the idea of it, immediately raises questions and makes you think. The system is set up well, and can we just talk about the names? On-Path, even they are simply a way of organising (Monica has an explanation here), and that’s a really intriguing idea, that leads to creative names like Ilyf and Byde and Czin.
Lona is inquisitive and believable and likable. She develops the most being the main character, and also because she goes from having no knowledge of the outside, real world to having some, and it’s fascinating to watch her gain that knowledge, feel the intenseness of the real life in comparison to the virtual one they’d been kept on. My second favourite was Talia, a Path worker-there’s more to her than you first think. All the characters are something different.
The plot goes in a lot of different directions, and halfway through someone turns up who is a really big plot twist. Genevieve and Lona together are good at discovering things, and also the relationship between them is interesting to watch develop. The Fenn x Lona one is also good, developing naturally.
The writing was really good at getting across the idea that these children hadn’t had their own lives. They’re all rather accepting of their situation, and the use of the pronoun We to refer to both themselves and Julian, the thinking of Julian’s birthday being their own, and the games show that despite them being Off-Path, they do still think of themselves as one with Julian.
Where it ended made this book feel complete, but there’s a lot of room for a sequel, and I really hope, with the writing of Stray, that there will be one.
Overall: Strength 4 tea to a highly original book with mystery, friendship, and what it means to follow, or not follow, a path.