City of Savages by Lee Kelly
published on February 3rd 2015 by Saga Press
young adult | dystopia | romance | thriller
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It’s been nearly two decades since the Red Allies first attacked New York, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp, ruled by Rolladin and her brutal, impulsive warlords. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the POW camp is a dangerous playground of possibility, and the only home she’d ever want.
When Sky and Phee discover their mom’s hidden journal from the war’s outbreak, they both realize there’s more to Manhattan—and their mother—than either of them had ever imagined. And after a group of strangers arrives at the annual POW census, the girls begin to uncover the island’s long-kept secrets. The strangers hail from England, a country supposedly destroyed by the Red Allies, and Rolladin’s lies about Manhattan’s captivity begin to unravel.
Hungry for the truth, the sisters set a series of events in motion that end in the death of one of Rolladin’s guards. Now they’re outlaws, forced to join the strange Englishmen on an escape mission through Manhattan. Their flight takes them into subways haunted by cannibals, into the arms of a sadistic cult in the city’s Meatpacking District and, through the pages of their mom’s old journal, into the island’s dark and shocking past.
With dystopians published recently, there seems to be a trend in that they all have too many action sequences and not nearly enough substance. City of Savages, however, much to my excitement, doesn’t fall into this cliche. Rather, instead of focusing on the mindless action scenes, Lee Kelly instead makes the book a psychological character analysis, something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen thoroughly explored in a YA dystopian before.
Twenty years ago, the Red Allies attacked New York and captured Manhattan to use as a prisoner of war camp. When siblings Sky and Phee, two prisoners, discover their mother’s diary pre-war diary, they soon learn that not everything in their safe haven of the world is as idyllic as it may appear.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the world-building was the strongsuit here. Lee Kelly sets her story two decades after World War Three in which America has been defeated and Manhattan is now under control by their enemies, the Red Allies. Despite this being a constant theme throughout the story, we never learn much more about the war than those few facts, and I wanted to learn more.
- What was the war being fought over?
- What countries did Red Allies consist of? What countries were allied with America?
- How did the Red Allies manage to capture Manhattan?
- In what ways was this war different from a modern-day war?
The story is told in dual perspective between sisters Sky and Phee. Despite sharing some of the same DNA, these two couldn’t be more different. Sky is the older sister – quiet, reserved, and intelligent; and would like nothing more than to leave their POW camp. In contrast, Phee is impulsive and fierce, and to her the POW camp is the only home she’s ever wanted.
Despite their differences, the sisters must come together if they want to discover the truth about their city. The relationship between Sky and Phee was definitely one of the story’s highlights. There is nothing better than to see such a raw, honest portrayal of being siblings, and Lee Kelly nailed it.
While definitely more psychological and less action-packed than your typical dystopian novel, City of Savages is a unique and original read in a relatively overcrowded genre. While the world-building is not necessarily up to par with what I had hoped it would be, the wonderful sibling relationships between the two protagonists substitutes for that.
Have you ever read a book where you felt the romance overpowered the plot?
Zoe is a critical reviewer. When she’s not reviewing, you can find her performing in plays / musicals, doing gymnastics, or designing websites.