Review: 'The Cage' by Megan Shepherd

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Cage
Megan Shepherd  

The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman's Daughtertrilogy.

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

The Big Picture: 

This was a thought provoking book. I was left scratching my head, trying to figure this out.
I thought that the characters were interesting. They had complex backstories. They had relations already set out like with Lucky and Cora. I loved the backstories. The multiple PoVs was also well-done. It wasn't too confusing or complex. It was completely understandable.
The romance wasn't something I liked. It seemed uncalled for and completely unexpected. Especially that love triangle. There was no reason for it.
I thought it was great that the book brought up some meaningful arguments. With the changing world right now, some of these arguments are valid in real life. What does it mean to be human? How can you lose your humanity? What makes us human?
The ending left me wanting more. It was full of tension with a sorta-cliffhanger ending.

The Dirty Details: 

The different PoVs provided different ways to see the world they lived in. I thought the way the different PoVs was used was well-done. (Not all multiple PoV books are good. Sometimes, they get confusing. It can be hard to keep track of all the characters and their motivations.) We got to see Cora's perspective. She saw the world through defiant eyes. She was determined to escape. It painted a darker picture. Nok was trying to see this world as home. She saw the world as her salvation. Rolf saw the world as a scientist at first. He picked apart the illusions and figured out the puzzles until he was seduced by Nok. He turned into a hateful, blissful person. (If you can believe that.)
It also provided tension. When a character, say Cora, was about to do something stupid or reckless (which defines all of the things Cora does), and then the story changes to Nok, you wonder what happened to Cora. You have to read what happened to Nok before you get back to Cora. It's a great way to create tension. There was one instance (and I don't remember the details) where a PoV switch made me rage because I wanted to know what happened to Cora and not Nok.

I loved the backstories. They were extremely diverse. Cora was in prison. Nok was a model in a place that was like a whorehouse. Rolf was bullied for his genius. Lucky was tortured by guilt. Leon was a smuggler. They all had interesting pasts. We got their motivations for things. Why Nok manipulated people. Why Cora was insistent to leave.
Their lives before were starkly different than their lives in the cage. These teens had terrible lives. They suffered. They lived in misery. Things were starkly different. They had food. Love. Toys. Mental stimulus. Physical stimulus. For once in their lives, they could be happy.
I felt for these characters. Their loneliness. Their pain. I wanted to help them. I wanted to be their friend. I wanted to be with them.

This book brought up human nature and what it means to be human.
What does it mean to be human? Is it the culture? The language? Our lack of telepathy? Is it our skin? Our bodies? What keeps us from being animals? (Though, we are technically animals.)
It was a thought provoking argument. I kept mulling over it once I was done. What make me human? Can I lose my humanity? And the thing is...I don't have an answer for that.

The romance was uncalled for. It seemed to exist for the purpose of existing. I know the Third Rule. (Don't tell me about it. I know.) I didn't like the romance. Everyone paired off. Everyone had feelings for their partner. Can't you rebel? I know you were matched, but that doesn't mean you need to submit to it. What if you don't even like your match? I didn't understand.

The plot didn't have much going on. It was mostly Cora looking for a way out and flirting with Mr. Hot Alien Guy. It was the others submitting to Rule Three and submitting to the world. I'm all for rebellions and fighting back. That's why I respected Cora. She wanted to leave. She wanted to go home.
I wanted more action. More fighting. I wanted to see Cora fighting for real. I wanted to see Leon battling it out. Their hormones were raging. Why didn't anything happen?

The ending was full of tension. We were given an escape scene. Freedom. A luxury some people forget they have. I thought it was well-done. I was kept on the edge of my seat, hoping and praying they didn't end up dead.
And I loved the reveal about Cora's powers. It was shocking. It wasn't expected. Cassian thought the humans might have her powers, but I wasn't convinced. Then, she used it. And whoa! I didn't know humans could do that. It was a very cool reveal and a good plot twist.
The ending left me wanting more. I want the next book now!



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