Trella is a scrub. A scrub is a cleaner in the lower regions. In the lower regions live thousands of people who are basically slaves. They each have a job and a shift pattern where they work half the day and sleep half the day. Scrubs have no families or living quarters. They have an assigned bed, which they share with a person who works on the opposite shift pattern, and all babies are taken away from their parents, at birth, and put into care homes where they are trained for future jobs. Trella is known as Queen of the Pipes as she like to spend her spare time in the pipes which separate the lower and upper regions rather than spend it with her fellow scrubs. In the upper regions live the more privileged people who are allowed families and proper homes. It is the hope of every scrub to get to the upper regions or the mythical gateway that leads to Outside (no one actually knows what is on the outside..)
The story begins with the Broken man (a man in a wheelchair) trying to get Trella, through her friend Cog, to help him with his quest to find the Gateway. Of course such talk is not allowed by the "Pop-Cops" (Population Control police who run the lower regions and enforce the rules) and they try to arrest the Broken man. Knowing that he will be sent to the Chomper (literally a machine which minces up unruly scrubs) Trella and Cog hide him away in a forgotten place which has been discovered by Trella on her travels. The Pop-cops search the lower regions for the Broken man, suspecting Cob and Trella as his rescuers. After Cob is arrested, and scheduled for execution, is up to Trella to try to get to the Gateway and hopefully save her friend. Along the way she gains support in unexpected places, especially from an upper named Riley.
I enjoyed this book but it took a blooming long-time to even start liking it! I started the book treating it as a Young Adult. By the end of it I had decided that I wouldn't sort it as a Young Adult on my shelves. The lead character, Trella, is a young adult (don't ask me how old....I gave up trying to figure out how these people measure time about 2 chapters in. It would take a calculator to work out everyones age and I hate math...Im not going to start doing it for a book!) and the book is written from her POV. This does, at points, give a Young Adult flavour to the tale. However this is where the young adult aspects start and end. The writing is fabulous but incredibly detailed and elaborate. I suggest you treat this book like Inception the movie - you skip details and you will get lost! The world building is probably the best I have seen since Iones' Demonica series and I loved this dystopian world. The mild romance was lovely to see build and I liked the fact that you saw it coming before the characters did, it was sweet. However the unnderlying themes were DARK. First the segregation between the classes was horrible. Yes it turned out that life wasn't as hunky-dory as believed in the upper region, but there was still a massive difference. The torture that went on for information was just plain evil, as was the casual disregard for life that was shown by the feeding of the scrubs to the "Chomper." The separation of families from their children was heartbreaking and the consequences of this entire population essentially being orphans was unthinkable. The whole underlying strands to this world were disturbing and that, along with the complexity of the plot and language, are the reasons I cannot class this as a YA book.
Did I like it? I loved it. It wasn't poison study (which I adored) but it was just as well written. I don't think I truly managed to get my head around the structure of the world until the end, but the amount of creativity and thought that went into its creation is astounding. It took me a while to warm to Trella. Occaisionally she bordered on obnoxious bint rather than strong-female, but I began to see that as a product of her upbringing and accepted it. I loved Riley. He was so sweet and brave....I always think that if a book, written in first person, can make you love other characters then its a winner. The other characters were likeable enough. One thing I like about Snyders' writing is she doesn't waste space. Every person and scene written had a purpose in driving the plot forward, so the pace never let up.
I enjoyed the romance, I rooted for the cause, I was disturbed by the evilness of the plot and I read it in two sittings. I think that about sums-up how good this book is and I have put the next one on my future reads book....Can I say more than that? :)