The Farm by Emily McKay

The Farm book cover
Rating 4.0/10
Could have been brilliant, but wasn't.

I was rather underwhelmed with this one I am afraid. It is not dreadful by any means but just very ordinary – mediocre may sound a little harsh but it sums up my feelings towards the book as succinctly as any other individual word. Plot, characterisation, world, dialogue – they are all passably fair but nothing more. It was a book that gave only a modicum of reading enjoyment and reading it felt more a duty than a pleasure.

Normally, when I have not enjoyed - or am not enjoying - a book, I either stop reading or finish it and move onto another without first writing a review. But this has always seemed wrong and has led to the vast majority of reviews on the site being positive and this in turn has produced a feel of imbalance. So in an attempt to review the books I didn't overly enjoy I think it is important to make clear that I am not every book's target market and more importantly mention that other reviewers have really enjoyed it. If this book really appeals to you then I would advise you check out the 2 review sites below before reading my thoughts as the last thing I would ever want to do is stop somebody from reading a book they might enjoy simply because it didn't work for me.

Here is a positive review of The Farm - http://gonewiththewords.com/2012/12/review-the-farm-by-emily-mckay-qa-and-giveaway.html but the reviews on Goodreads.com are also very insightful - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13542868-the-farm

Without further ado, here are the reasons I struggled with Emily McKay's The Farm.

Although suspension of disbelief is integral to the enjoyment of any book of this type I found it just too hard to achieve on this occasion – they were just too many holes in the plot, characterisation and dialogue. It was also all just a little convenient at times, unlikely at others. You are, as the reader, just expected to take things without explanation.

But first the synopsis, which interested me and led me to believe I was about to read something I might really enjoy:

Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…

And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.

Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…

Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...

My first issue is the vampires. From reading the synopsis I had assumed that here finally was an author that had returned vampires to their rightful role of figures of terror but McKay seemed unable to do this. Yes, there is a vampire in the book, but he abstains from human blood in general so instead we have a new species called ticks, genetic human experimentations gone wrong, who feed on human blood and hearts and fill the roles that the author seemed incapable of casting the traditional vampire in. This unnecessarily complicated the plot and made it even harder to find believable.

My second issue was with the book's focus. I read dystopian books mainly due to the themes they explore, which fascinate me: The disintegration of society, the steady descent back to barbarity, the indomitable human spirit. I like to see how the world has changed, how it has become more of a case of survival rather than advancement. What I don’t expect is a soppy teenage love story to be the centre point which drives these themes into insignificance. But that is what I got. And then we have the book's lead Lily, who is, alongside her autistic sister, in great danger, the days of their lives may well be numbered in single figures but we find her wondering how Carter (the inevitable love interest) remembers she liked Dr. Pepper and reminiscing about how his hair once brushed her thigh – at a time when her autistic twin is alone in the office of one feared man with what might just be an uber-vampire. I just can’t for the life on me believe that anyone would be behaving the way she was at that time, particularly when she supposedly cared so much about her sister’s welfare. I am not anti-romance at all, it is vital to almost every good story, but when it is just so blatantly inappropriate and unlikely it comes across as shoe-horned in and makes a mockery of the supposed fear and danger under which Lily was supposedly living her life. I just think she would have had other things than Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine on her mind at the time. And this was a big problem for me.

A final example of something that really annoyed me is when the group needed weapons to fight the tick threat. So we conveniently have  the farm of Lily's uncle on the their current escape path and luckily he was a bit of a "gun nut". But wait, the doors to the armoury are locked - what can be done? Well, luckily Lily remembers that her uncle loved Elvis, so the 2 combination locks simply must be the birthday of Elvis and Priscilla, right? And as we all know, every teenage girl in the 21st century knows these dates so, hey presto, doors unlocked and weaponry acquired. Can you believe it? I couldn't.

But I guess there must be a market for this type of romance-in-a-dystopian-setting fare (The Hunger Games is a good comparison but it got the balance just right) and this may well be what many readers want. Certainly a publisher like Penguin would not have signed it up unless they thought it would work. But it could and should have been so much better and I felt rather depressed by the end of the book, like I had just eaten a meal without flavour or sustenance. The book's ending did take me by surprise, and the author showed the bravery to do things that I didn't think she was capable of but by then it was too late for this reviewer, and my mind had by firmly made up. Surely young adults want a little bit more than this? I certainly hope so. I’m down on this book because I had so little fun reading it but as ever it is only a personal opinion and other opinions are available.

This The Farm book review was written by

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