Title: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
Published: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
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The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman’s Daughter trilogy.
When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.
Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.
As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?
Sigh, where do I start? There were so many ways The Cage could become a sci-fi of epic proportions, so what happened along the way to waste such good potential? I’m still reeling from the disappointment I felt and the mediocrity of this book.
The Cage started out well enough, with Cora waking up in a strange place where seasons changed in just a few steps, and where all kinds of cultures clashed together in a bizarre town. The story wasn’t like anything I’d read before (a gem in an age where YA books resemble each other in one way or another), and there was a good amount of mystery and confusion to keep me reading. The pacing was done masterfully throughout the novel; the suspense, questions, revelations — all were present in the right quantities so that nothing seemed to be revealed too early, or too late, and I never knew what to expect.
Unfortunately, the plot progression was about all that impressed me.
I honestly did not care for any of the characters. I admired Cora’s bravery, determination, and selflessness, but her character was so inconsistent throughout the book that it was impossible to fully come to like her. One minute she’s tough and strong, and the next she’s giving up and agreeing to comply with the aliens’ third rule (basically: to reproduce). One minute she’s thinking about escape, and the next she’s kissing Lucky — another one of the four teenagers in the Cage — under a cherry blossom tree. I get that inconsistency is human nature, but Cora’s fickleness didn’t feel genuine at all. The characters’ pasts on Earth could have used a lot more page time as well, because except for a few paragraphs here and there, I didn’t know what kind of lives they led before they were captured and caged up.
Okay, confession time: I didn’t actually read the full blurb when I went into this story, which may have contributed to why I didn’t like the romance at all. See that bit where it says “a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian“? Yeah. I didn’t see that, but then again it wasn’t like I wasn’t expecting some kind of romance between Cora and her alien captor
(because a YA read is nothing without forbidden romances, lbr). All because Cassian was a leeeettle nicer to Cora than his friends were.
IS THIS HOW GIRLS FALL IN LOVE THESE DAYS?
But perhaps the worst part of the book was the fact that everything was so. damn. convenient. I won’t go too in-depth because of spoilers, but let me just give you a rough idea:
- Right when something bad is about ton happen to Cora, something else occurs to prevent that.
- Some of the drama involving Nok (another captive) toward the end of the book was so unnecessary and flimsy — I just wasn’t buying it.
- The captives were supposed to solve “puzzles” in the Cage in order to earn tokens (aka money), but the puzzles seemed more like mini games, and it was convenient how Cora and Rolf could solve every single one of them. The puzzles could have been better described to give the idea of a challenge, but they weren’t.
- And finally, the one that pissed me off the most: When the characters were told that something awful had happened, THEY DIDN’T QUESTION ANYTHING. There was no denial, no “how” or “why,” just dramatic displays of shock. They accepted what they were told without question, and it made me want to rip my hair out.
Spoilery paragraph ahead, so read at your own risk! Apparently the four humans were chosen by the aliens because they were “paragons of humanity,” but there was hardly any proof of that through their actions. Leon was strong? Obviously not, if a small girl who had been caged up for pretty much her entire life was able to fight him one-on-one (and even give him a nosebleed!). Lucky had morals? Nope, otherwise he wouldn’t have lied to Cora or accepted money from her dad to cover for the accident. Cora was self-sacrificing? Maybe, but in an extremely stupid way, like not wanting to leave the others behind even though she knew that they were planning to kill her. Girl, get over it and save yourself. (Or maybe I’m just heartless.) Overall, more convenient stuff, really.
Needless to say, The Cage was another disappointment I could have done without. It had a stage set for a grand and amazing performance, but as I read on, I realized that the performance I was looking for wouldn’t happen. I do think, though, that people who don’t usually read sci-fi will have a much better time with this book than I did, so not all hope is lost! :)
Rating: ★★ 1/2