Tuesday 4 October 2016

Book Club Picks #4 Cell 7

When sixteen year old Martha Honeydew admits to the murder of local celebrity Jackson Paige, she is immediately arrested and put on Death Row. Martha must spend a week in seven different cells, where her fate will be decided by a public vote. Will Martha be sentenced to death, or will her life be saved by the public?

When I got sent a copy of this book as part of our monthly book club read, I had no idea if I was going to enjoy it or not. It follows Martha, a sixteen year old girl from The Rises, a part of town where the poor reside. Martha is found standing over the body of Jackson Paige, a local celebrity, with a gun in her hand. After admitting that she killed him, Martha is arrested and locked in Cell 1, a series of seven where on the final day, the public decide if she lives or dies. The public are given information on Martha through 'Death is Justice', an extremely biased television show, where the host tries to convince the public that Martha is guilty. The idea of a corrupt government is by far not an original one, as after the huge success of The Hunger Games, dystopian novels were everywhere to the point that I got bored of them. Although I loved the idea of criminals spending just a week behind bars instead of a lifetime, I found the TV show idea to be quite unoriginal, as it just reminded me of Caeser Flickerman's show in The Hunger Games.

The story is told in a unique way, with the narrative constantly changing between tenses, person and point of view. Although I initially found this to be confusing and annoying, I got more used to it as the book progressed. As the majority of Martha's chapters are told in first person, I was extremely confused when a couple of her chapters towards the middle of the book were in third person. I couldn't for the life of me understand why Kerry Drewery did this, and all it did was confuse me further. Overall I think the constantly changing narratives took a little of the enjoyment of the plot away from me.

The plot itself was quite interesting, and I loved how Martha kept going back to explain the lead up to Jackson's murder bit by bit. It gave the story a good amount of tension, and I would have been hooked if some of the plot points hadn't been painfully obvious. There are two big reveals towards the end of the book, both of which I had worked out by the halfway point. As someone who loves plot twists that I didn't see coming, I was disappointed that all my theories turned out to be correct. I did however love how fast paced the novel was in the last quarter, and I was hooked right up until the end. The countdown literally had me on the edge of my seat!

It is clear even in today's society that wealthy people have an advantage in almost everything, so I loved how even though it was up to the public to decide the outcome of the prisoners, they had to pay £5 for each vote. This meant that the rich could vote multiple times, whereas the poor may not have been able to vote at all. I loved seeing the difference in class, with the poor seeing how it was clearly an unfair system, while the rich defended it. As court systems no longer exist in Martha's world, evidence of the crime plays a minimal part in deciding if someone is guilty or not, which has led to a number of innocent people being executed. It was interesting that although evidence existed, it was not made available to the public, and they had to make a decision solely on a corrupt TV show.

The addition of a live-stream from the cells for the public to watch was an interesting idea, but ended up seeming like a boring version of The Hunger Games. I found it strange that there didn't seem to be an audio-feed, and thought it was extremely unrealistic that after finding out Eve didn't think Martha was guilty, she would have been allowed to talk to Martha in her cell with no one listening in on their conversation.

Martha was an interesting and likeable protagonist, and I loved her opinions on the corrupt justice system. I loved that although she is just sixteen, she is trying to make a huge change to the system to make it fair. Although Drewery went down the typical poor orphan girl route, I still enjoyed Martha as a character, and loved watching her come to terms with the murder of her mother.
Eve was one of my favourite characters, and I loved her relationship with Martha. Eve's chapters were some of my favourites, and I loved how she had a terrible personal experience with the justice system, and worked alongside Martha in an attempt at change. Eve was extremely clever, and I loved how although the public initially hated her, she soon had them eating out of the palm of her hand. I also thought Joshua was an interesting character, as although he is a co-host on 'Death is Justice' it is obvious that he has different opinions to Kristina. I loved that he seemed to secretly be rooting for Martha's freedom, and although he wasn't openly allowed to share his personal opinion, he hinted at it.

The one character who I just wasn't drawn to was Isaac. Although he is extremely loyal and kind to Martha, I just felt as if I didn't know enough about him to form a strong opinion on him. Most of the things we learn about Isaac are from Martha, and although she does know quite a lot about him, I felt as if there needed to be a little more information about who he is as a person. Although there are some chapters dedicated to Isaac, they are in third person, which means that we can never learn about him to the extent that we know Martha. I would have loved to have got inside Isaac's head to learn more about his thoughts and feelings. As Isaac is central to the plot towards the end of the book, I felt as if more focus should have been on him throughout the novel, as I feel as if the ending would have had a bigger impact on me if I had more of an attachment to Isaac.

Although I did enjoy parts of this book, to me it felt like another generic YA dystopian novel. It lacked originality, and I don't think there was much content that I haven't already seen something similar to in in other YA dystopian books i've read. If, unlike me, you haven't already burnt yourself out by reading too many dystopian novels, then I think this book could be extremely enjoyable. However, to me it felt as if it was just another textbook dystopian. The fact that it didn't shock me much meant that sadly, the book didn't stand out much for me.

Cell 7 is now available to purchase!

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