Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: a publicist in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: March 4, 2014
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Blurb from goodreads:
Welcome to Wormwood: a place where curiosity is discouraged and no one has ever left.
Until one girl, Vega Jane, discovers a map that suggests a mysterious world beyond the walls. A world with possibilities and creatures beyond her imagining.
But she will be forced to fight for her freedom. And unravelling the truth may cost Vega her life.
With this book, Baldacci switched gears from writing political thrillers to young adult fantasy. I wasn't sure what to expect but since I like his thrillers I figured it was worth a try. It didn't grab me right away, I put it down several times, but I kept reading and eventually was invested in the story.
The world is not Earth but a mix of Earth and an original world. All we see of the world is the small village where Jane Vega lives and the forest bordering it where people are forbidden to go, and people who have gone there are lost forever. Jane's parents are in a coma so she lives in an orphanage and works as a finisher at a factory, adding last touches to handicrafts. She has one friend, in large part due to her attitude; she's pushy, sassy, inquisitive, questions authority, and rebels at restrictions.
When her boss at the factory goes missing in the forest, Jane investigates his disappearance, calling attention to herself and uncovering a range of secrets about her, her family, and acquaintances. The more she investigates the more questions she has, particularly about her town and the people running it. Soon she finds herself caught in a web of deceit that has more layers than the Grand Canyon.
The story was slow at times and Jane veered between being a Mary Sue and being so pushy that it bordered on stupid and was often obnoxious. Her biggest strength, and maybe her weakness, is her loyalty; it made her easy to manipulate. There are twists and puzzles and mysteries and few get explained. The story ends on a cliff hanger and many, many loose threads. There's not a lot of world building and Baldacci is lazy with some things such as vocabulary. For instance, he keeps the concept of years but calls it sessions and a year/session seems to be the same as ours. Why bother changing the terminology? It was distracting and added nothing to the story. The world is interesting but I'd love to see it fleshed out and made real.
If you're able to be patient, and suspend belief, you may enjoy the story. Just don't expect answers.