Proxy by Alex London – The Whipping Boy meets Elysium meets Mad Max

At 16-years-old, Syd has years of debt to work off, just for being taken in by a public orphanage. He’s determined to keep his head down and not rack up anymore, but things aren’t so simple when you’re a proxy: life for a proxy means taking the punishments for your patron’s bad behaviour. When the recklessness of his spoiled patron, Knox, accidentally gets a girl killed, Syd is set to serve the lifetime in prison in his place. Instead, both boys end up on the run and the ensuing chase will determine the future, not only of the two boys, but of their city and its entire way of life.
 

‘A futuristic Whipping Boy‘ sounds contrived, but London’s execution of the idea is admirable: amongst a proliferation of dystopian futures, the proxy system is one of real coherence. The gap between rich and poor doesn’t just exist arbitrarily, but is continuously reinforced through accumulated debt, and the entire system is vividly rendered within a few chapters. Proxy wastes little time, and its short chapters and tense action scenes make it immensely readable.
 

Both Syd and Knox are compelling and complex characters, neither simply ‘victim’ or ‘abuser’. The mutual reliance and friendship developed between the two as Knox graduates from Syd’s hostage to co-conspirator is an engaging underpinning of the high-stakes adventure. It’s worth noting that Syd is gay and self-described as ‘brown,’ both traits under-represented among dystopian heroes, and gay actions heroes are long overdue in media generally. Being gay is part of Syd’s character—it informs his own thoughts and others’ interactions with him—but it isn’t an integral part of Proxy’s plot. What is integral is some serious biotech, a secret rebel movement, mercenary outlaws, a concept borrowed from Jewish theology (‘Yovel’, or Jubilee), and a lot of tightly-plotted action.
 

Proxy has a sequel (Guardian, released 2014), but the book has a satisfying, if somewhat open-ended, ending and could be read as a stand-alone.
 

 
Highly recommended, for ages 12 and up.
London, Alex. Proxy. New York: Philomen, 2012.
Alex London runs his own tumblr, where he regularly interacts with readers.
 
Download the first 3 chapters of Proxy for free here or see the mini-readalike under the cut, which has a few recommended reads based on some of Proxy‘s characteristics and elements.

Check out Alex London’s “4 Things I learned (and 1 thing I didn’t) while writing Proxy,” at Diversity in YA.
 

Proxy poster by Kolorgasm

click through for mini-readalike

Cinder by Marissa Meyer—science fiction, action, political intrigue, romance, and the teeniest bit of Sailor Moon

cinder

(Very, very slight spoilers; no pivotal plot points revealed, just mention of a few details.)
 
Linh Cinder is a gifted mechanic working in the bustling city of New Beijing, considered a second-class citizen because of her status as a cyborg and living under the guardianship of a woman who detests and exploits her. But when a deadly plague encroaches on the city she’s enlisted for medical testing against her will and so begins a series of events that entangles her life with that of the handsome Prince Kaito, the global diplomatic relations with the dangerous Queen of the Lunar colony, and the fate of the earth itself.

 

The reliance on the Cinderella narrative is light, stripping much of the plot and keeping the archetypes—the prince, the wicked stepmother, the ball. All the characters are well-developed and Cinder herself is good-natured and refreshingly pragmatic; keeping her head down and working hard to free herself; making wrong decisions for the right reasons and actually learning from her mistakes. She doesn’t end up at the ball by way of deus ex machina and grand romantic gesture, but by her own volition and in a mire of political intrigue. Her antagonistic relationship with her own body is particularly interesting; she hates her robotic pieces and her status as cyborg, but it’s a truly awful moment when her stepmother confiscates her prosthetic foot. The eventual scene in which Cinder arrives at the ball, thanks to an old and previously resented cast-off prosthetic, is a satisfying moment of self-proclamation.

 

The foreshadowing in Cinder is a little obvious, but the predictability isn’t an unforgivable flaw; the interest is in watching how things play out among the characters and the book is fun enough that knowing the ‘reveals’ doesn’t really put a damper on it. In the nature of series openers, Cinder has a cliffhanger ending, but two of of the remaining three volumes have already been published, each following the fairy-tale theme: Scarlet (red riding hood) and Cress (Rapunzel).

 

Recommended, for ages 12 and up.

Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2012.

Marissa Meyer’s official website

 

Kelly Jensen just published “Beyond the Bestsellers: So You’ve Read “The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer” over at Book Riot, a list of a few books to try after you’ve finished Cinder and its sequels. I put together another mini-readalike for some different elements of the books that you can check out below the cut.

 

Goni-Montes-Cinder7Linh Cinder by Goni Montes

click through for mini-readalike