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Socialpunk by Monica Leonelle

Socialpunk (Socialpunk #1) (2012)
by Monica Leonelle
Publication Date: April 17, 2012
preorder a copy via Amazon.
synopsis via Goodreads.

Monica Leonelle is a well-known digital media strategist and the author of three novels. She blogs at Prose on Fire and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors through her Free Writer Toolkit.

(This review was written as a part of Monica’s Socialpunk blog tour. I am grateful for Monica for giving me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Ima would give anything to escape The Dome and learn what’s beyond its barriers, but the Chicago government has kept all its citizens on lockdown ever since the Scorched Years left most of the world a desert wasteland. When a mysterious group of hooded figures enters the city unexpectedly, Ima uncovers a plot to destroy The Dome and is given the choice between escaping to a new, dangerous city or staying behind and fighting a battle she can never win.

My Thoughts:
I loved the prologue, which made me eager to devour the book. However, to my disappointment, a bulk of the story never mentions the prologue again. Instead of an sci-fi with a mad scientist acting “God,” creating and observing his artificial human creations, I get a young adult love, action, “dystopian” story. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fun read, but I still can’t help being a bit cheated. While fast-paced and entertaining, it falls slightly short in almost every aspect. Nonetheless, it was an intriguing read that I easily finished in two sittings.

Short Summary: 17 year old Ima/E/Cinder (obviously, she has an affinity for pseudonyms) lives in 2052 Chicago with a loving mother, an abusive father, and a best-friend/lover. Later she is told her world is a big lie, done for a virtual reality experiment. She escapes to the “real” world with two strangers, Vaughn and Nahum, which even further in the future (2198.) There’s an abundance of technology, but food has become a scarce; most people only eat pills. She joins Socialpunk to save her best friend, knowing that her world would be destroyed soon.

Futuristic World-building:
To Leonelle’s credit, she has built a fascinating futuristic world of mindblowing technology. The technology is the reason why I would refer to the story has a “dystopian” vibe, though not entirely explicit. There’s nothing wrong about these futuristic people, they are just enhanced with bionics, which basically is a computer in their brain…hooked up to Google and instant messaging. Very convenient, but at the cost of human-to-human communication.

The Heroine: (who is more of a pathetic mess than a heroine)
Not sure where Leonelle is going with her heroine to be honest. If I put my life in Cinder’s hands, I am pretty sure I would be dead in five minutes.

Leonelle constantly reminds us that Cinder is “strong” and “special” by having the minor characters praise her making it seem way too forced, especially since her actions say otherwise.
She is not strong, she is just blessed with bionics and overnight steroids. It seems they could just pull any other person off the street to do the same job.

Rather than being the heroine, Cinder loves to be the damsel in distress. She needs a guy carrying, saving, or at least next to her at any given moment. At one point she declares “Love is everything…It touches every aspect of what you do. How can love not be of concern to you?”
Love is definitely her thing, her world pretty much revolves around saving her crush, Dash.

She loves to compare her lack of beauty with every other girl she meets. Does she have self-esteem issues? Hey, why do looks even matter when you have a love pentagon going on? Every male character has some sort of romantic relationship with her. And the other girls see her as a boyfriend-stealing threat.

She is impulsive, it the worst possible way. She literally does nothing right.
She screws up her first Socialpunk mission, causing their leader and her friend held hostage.
To redeem herself, she goes and participates in this “Art Smash,” a digital role-playing/reversi game for artists to battle with the characters they create. She wins…because she used someone else’s work.

She doesn’t know when to apologize. She apologizes when this lady bumps into her, but doesn’t when she causes two of her groupmates to be held hostage…out of pride. You need to get your priorities straight. She complains when Ember, one of her teamates, glare at her for ruining the entire plan and getting their leader thrown in jail…I think it’s nice that she didn’t slap Cinder, because I would.

Ok, I get that heroines can’t be perfect; it would be boring that way. But Cinder seems to be a bundle of flaws with no redeeming qualities, except an impeccable talent for getting herself tangled in love pentagons. I hope I would like her better as I got on, but that moment never came.

At one point she calls herself “a self-absorbed narcissist.” BINGO! Girl, what took you so long?

The Good Guys:

The Socialpunks? Their name sounds rebellious, so I am not sure if they are even the “good guys.” For the most part they seem to deal within the black market, their leader, Nasser, also gets himself in jail pretty often. However, Nasser seems to be a happy-go-lucky guy. I was expecting Socialpunks to be a lot more impressive…but the only thing impressive seems to be their name. They can’t even fight and get caught during their mission easily.

The army that joins Cinder?…they seem like a mindless mob to me. You were inspired by…A COMIC BOOK? And you are putting your hopes on some random girl who only cares about saving her lover (who doesn’t even love her back)?
I guess one of the few “good” things Cinder does is agree to be their leader, which seems to be inspired by peer pressure rather than a product of initiative.

The Villain
The “bad guy” is a filthy rich guy whose name is too long to remember. (Alkzar?) He is also the head of the FACE corporation. He is not really described in detail, and his intentions are blurry. Apparently, he wants to be even more filthy rich and to do so he needs to mind control the entire city. He is supposed to be smart and calculating, but what kind of smart person would want to brainwash people in his own city? Unless he has a severely twisted mind and feels like interacting with mindless drones. Or maybe he wants to punish them for opposing his plans for world domination. For the most part, he is the mysterious big boss you want to defeat in a video game because he is filthy rich.

Oh, and he is a politician. We all hate them too, right?
Leonelle describes his smile to “a politician, slightly insincere, and took no notice of the fact that several people in the crowd tried to assassinate him.” Well, that makes Leonelle’s stance on politicians pretty blatant.

He only needs to be morbidly obese with a cigar, and we have the perfect villain mold right here.

The Whole Art Thing:
The “real” world thrives on art. Everyone either makes, sells, curates, or influences art. As part of his world domination plan, the bad guy wants to free copyright in other cities “rejuvenate their economies.” Or that’s what he says, but he what he really wants is to “ban international copyright” and reap all the profits for himself. Confused? I am too. This copyright fiasco hardly seems to matter if you are going to mind control everyone anyway.

There are a lot of themes; the ramifications of technology, the exploitation of artists, realization of reality, the superficiality of politics, and drug usage.
I am not sure Leonelle’s stance on several of these issues.
I thought she was all for preserving copyright (since her villain wants to eradicate it), but then she has her protagonist stealing her friend’s art to win a competition.
The technology which is supposedly the cause of human decline ends up being the reason why Cinder is a “hero.”

The Not-so-evil Villians
Declan and Kaiser. Nobody cares about them. Sure, they kidnapped Nahum…but he is pretty useless anyway and pretty much disappears in the middle of the story (pitiful actually.)

Emphasis on Action Over Love:
One of the reasons this story redeemed itself; I am not a big fan of reading pages upon pages of lovelorn, teenage girls declaring some guy as their eternal soulmate. If you like that stuff, this book is not for you. But it’s pace is prefect for action.

I hope it’s because I read a review edition that there are more glaring errors than I expected (especially in the later pages, as if the writer rushed towards end.) I am starting to suspect it didn’t even do through spell check, much less a copy editor, for I found “City” written as “CIty.”

Pace was fast, with an abundance of action, making it an easy read…but I wish the story would slow down to flesh out some details. There’s a lot of description dedicated to what people look like, mostly because Cinder loves caring about appearances. Sentences are generally short and simplistic. I was surprised when Leonelle threw a triple metaphor at me at one point.
Some sentences sounded choppy and awkwardly read like an afterthought, especially this one: “A booming voice vibrated passionately through the crowd, crisp and clear, like it streamed through a microphone–it didn’t though.”
Instead of describing appearances, I would’ve appreciated more emphasis on explanations.

Unexpected. But makes me wonder about Cinder’s observation skills.
Surprising? Yes. But not exactly an effective cliffhanger.

Overall, a fun read. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a light, sci-fi/dystopian read full of action and fascinating world-building. If you like love triangles, this is your book: tangled relationships galore. But don’t try to over-analyze lest you be disappointed. I am slightly interested in reading the sequel…we’ll see.

Rating: C

and of course, the GIVEAWAY!


(I’m linking since rafflecopter does NOT want to cooperate with my wordpress theme.)