The Registry by Shannon Stoker (William Morrow Paperbacks; 336 pages; $14.99).
The Registry saved the country from collapse. But stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained by the state to fight to their death.
Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous thoughts. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.
All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.
I was initially intrigued by Stoker’s chilling dystopian world. As I am a huge Margaret Atwood fan, I hoped to see traces of The Handmaid’s Tale, but that was not to be. Perhaps my hopes were too high. Disappointment quickly set in.
Mia, the protagonist of this, the first book in a trilogy, never progresses as a character and remains one-dimensional, content to play with new make-up and hairstyles as those around her risk their lives…for her. It’s utterly laughable.
Her sister is far more interesting than Mia, making me wish the story had been written about her and not about Mia.
As with most other YA novels, Stoker creates a love triangle. Andrew and Carter vie for Mia’s attention, producing almost agonizing scenes. But I will say this: Carter is funny and adorable, while Andrew is Andrew. He helps Mia escape the prospect of a slave-like existence only to hope one day to get out of the service and enter the registry for a wife. Only at the very end of the book does Andrew change his mind.
Then, you have the character of Whitney, Mia’s friend who escapes with her. Intelligent and practical, Whitney has no prospective grooms and thus will likely “marry” the government. Instead of being her own person and choosing to live a life of her own, Whitney is nothing more than a throwaway character who ends up losing her life for Mia. Whitney seems to exist only to save Mia’s life. Everything is about Mia.
The world Stoker envisions in this novel is interesting. Although it’s not as fleshed out as the worlds of The Hunger Games, Matched, or Divergent, there is something here. It’s a world where girls are better than boys. A world where Mexico is a land of freedom and where the internet is monitored. Stoker, in effect, turns the tables, and thus draws you into her story, but it’s not enough.
The information about what led to the Registry is teased out in little morsels. We are only given bits and pieces, and these do not sustain us. She wants us to read the next book. While I understand that, it still feels gimmicky. William Morrow will release the second novel in Winter 2014, but this reader will not be purchasing it.
Stoker’s novel works best in a teen audience and maybe that’s why it didn’t work for me.