Wednesday, May 8, 2013

(Spoiler Free) Review: CODA by Emma Trevayne

CODA Back cover summary:

"Deep in an abandoned basement, Athem sings of a truth and freedom with his illegal underground band. Yet on the surface and under watchful eyes, Anthem is unable to resist the call of the Corporation's addictive, mind-altering music tracks, even as he knows they are used to control him and his fellow citizens.
When tragedy strikes close to home, Anthem realizes that defying the Corp comes at a deadly price...and the stakes of preventing his brother and sister from being claimed by the government drug are worth every heart-pounding second. The key to the revolution might lie with the girl Anthem loves, but will he trust her enough to let her join the fight?"

Let me begin by saying that the best part about this novel is that the story itself is so much more than this summary would have you believe.
So often I've read books that merely live up to the story on the back cover or inside flap; CODA surpasses all expectations to create a rare, rich, dystopian fantasy that will leave you breathless every step of the way.

It's hard for me to get behind a protagonist. I never really fall in love with them as much as the world built around them, or the supporting characters.
Anthem is the first protagonist I've loved in recent memory. The story is told in first person, and Ms. Trevayne is so talented that every positive and negative raw human emotion is succinctly but effortlessly conveyed so by the time you finish the book there is a distinct feeling of loss once you realize that Anthem isn't a real person out there making music just for us. The narration is so intimate but doesn't feel contrived, or as if it is pandering to the reader. The honesty in Anthem's voice is a testament to the magic inherent in a writer's craft; something that Ms. Trevayne has mastered in her debut novel. It isn't that you sympathize with the character, it's that you empathize with him; if you were in his shoes you would think his thoughts and feel his feelings.

As for the story itself, you're thrust into this strange and disconcerting world where music is used as a crowd-control drug by a tyrannical government. Surprises and tricksy sleights of hand abound from one chapter to another. These surprises don't lose the reader or make it seem like Ms. Trevayne was trying to trick us. They are as natural as Anthem's emotions, and like all well-timed reveals lend a considerable measure of excitement to the story. The shocking moments are just that - shocking - no lead in, no heavy-handed foreshadowing; the story simply moves along then BAM! something you took for granted or didn't give a second thought to hits you like a runaway train.

The world is our own. That is to say Ms. Trevayne has somehow accomplished crafting a terrifically complex, futuristic society without losing the reader in jargon, unfamiliar gadgets, or the idiosyncracies of an almost completely foreign culture.  Though the world and plot are as intricately woven as the loveliest tapestry we never lose sight of the big picture because of a loose thread. The pacing is tight, and after what seems like an hour you've finished CODA, and yearn for its sequel (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there will be a sequel!)

The most surprising, pleasant, and laudable aspect of CODA is its sheer uniqueness. I've never read anything like it, and I can't identify the literary roots of its inspiration.
We've all been there. We're reading a book and we see something that makes us think of ____ in that book we loved from years ago. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, World War Z, Game of Thrones, and Twilight were the springboards for many bestsellers and Book Club selections out there right now. There's certainly nothing wrong with a source of inspiration, or finding a new facet on one of those brilliant gems. However, CODA, reminds us of what a breath of fresh air feels like.
Because it is labeled "Dystopian fantasy" CODA will inevitably be compared to Divergent, but that's like comparing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to The Chronicles of Narnia (hint for the uninitiated - the similarity for those two stops at being Portal Fantasy for kids)
CODA has no peer; it is an astonishing combination of plot, high-concept world building, and characterization that hasn't been seen in teen fiction for quite sometime. It is my sincerest hope that it gets the recognition it deserves, and becomes the new source of inspiration that guides us toward the next trend in YA literature.
CODA delivers daunting complexity with the all style and grace of a ballet. Ms. Trevayne is the Prima Ballerina that makes the dance look elegant yet simple.

So for all of you looking for something that will bend your mind, make your heart race, and keep your fingers turning pages long into the night then without reservation I recommend CODA.  Let me know how much you enjoyed it...more importantly, let Emma Trevayne know! You can find her here on Twitter.

Happy Reading!

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