Anna Carey’s YA novel Eve shows early promise but then disappoints.
I want to love Eve, a YA dystopian novel. The story’s premise intrigues me. Carey even chooses a quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (one of my favorite novels) as her epigraph, which is a good start.
Carey begins Eve with a letter written by Eve’s mother in the year 2025. She is ill from the plague, a disease “taking everyone who was given the vaccine.” The United States is at a standstill: “There are no more flights. There are no more trains. They’ve barricaded the roads outside of town and now we all must wait. The phones and internet have long since gone out. The faucets are dry and cities are losing power, one by one.” Soon, Eve’s mother fears, “the entire world will be dark.”
Apocalypticism interests me; in graduate school, I even took a course in Medieval Apocalyptic Thought. It seems that YA novelists are especially fond of apocalyptic settings. Thus, Eve appeals to me, or at least the idea does. I love end-of-the-world scenarios.
Carey’s main character is, you guessed it, Eve. Carey tells the story from her point-of-view using a first-person narrative. This method of storytelling allows me to get into her head and know everything she knows. I develop a connection with her.
After her mother’s death, Eve, like many other orphaned little girls, was taken to a government compound where she is educated for twelve years. Eve was five when she arrived at the school and is now seventeen, on the cusp of graduating and learning a trade. Once she acquires useful skills, Eve will go to the City of Sand in the New America. No president governs New America; instead, a king rules over the country, or what is left of it.
On the night before graduation, Eve uncovers a horrible secret. The older girls housed in another building across from the compound, those same girls who supposedly already graduated and were apprenticing, are not there willingly. And they are not learning anything at all. Rather, they are “sows,” baby-making machines for the New America.
The revelation horrifies Eve, and, with the help of a teacher, she escapes into the “wilds.” She meets Caleb, the first young man she has seen in years (besides the doctor). At first, she is wary of him. He is a man, after all, and the teachers lectured on the nefarious ways of men and how, throughout history, they have hurt women. Eve finds, though, that Caleb is not the threat her teachers warned her about. A romance blooms between the two.
We learn that boys do not have it easy in the New America. Like girls, boys have a purpose. Many work as slaves in the City of Sand. Carey is rather vague here. I want to know more about this city, the king, and what boys experience there, but she is not forthcoming. Caleb takes Eve to a mountain hide-out he shares with other boys. But just as this “lost boys” meets “Lord of the Flies” type scenario gets interesting, Eve is exchanged by one of the boys for supplies. She escapes her captor and flees to the mythical and mysterious Califia, where only women are allowed. This is obviously the former state of California, but Carey is vague on this, too.
I hope there is a sequel because I do not care for the way it ended. I do want to find out more about Califia, Caleb, the City of Sand, and the New America. While this is a YA novel, geared to teens and young adults, sometimes Carey forgets her audience. For example, Eve and a friend listen to the Beatles’ “Let it Be” and also find an old Madonna cassette tape of “La Isla Bonita.” I would have liked to have seen more contemporary singers and maybe even old iPads. The Beatles and Madonna are legendary, sure, but, by the 2030s, their music will be literally ancient.
Eve is intriguing, but there are better YA dystopian novels. Try Suzanne Collins, Ally Condie, Moira Young, Veronica Roth, or Beth Revis instead.