Review for Dissolution by Lee S. Hawke
Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of the book for a fair and balanced review.
The short version: Inventive and interesting dystopian setting, good story. Description sometimes a bit confusing, but plot makes up for it. Payoff is surprisingly thought provoking. And sweet glory hallelujah it’s a YA novel without a love triangle. You should read it just for that.
The long version:
Dissolution is set in the city of Unilox, where people are born into corporations as assets, then bought and sold once adults. Madeline Anron, property of the corporation whose name she bears, anxiously awaits her auctioning and a chance to leave her life as a test subject of pharmaceutical corporation ANRON. Her dreams are shattered when a secret in her DNA comes to light and she is forced to go on the run. As she slips into the cracks in the system, she comes to understand its flaws and its true nature, which turns out to be basically the horrifying but logical conclusion of many of the things we take for granted in real corporations.
It’s this note of reality that makes the concept of the novel so strong, and helps make up for the occasional shortfall in execution. The characters do not get a great deal of development, but what is there feels very authentic. Similarly, Hawke’s action and visual descriptions get a bit confusing, but the emotion and sensations carry through. One scene, which I’ll refer to simply as “after the river” to avoid spoilers, is particularly visceral.
(From here there are some slight spoilers in the form of sweeping, vague statements. I won’t tell you any actual plot events, but if you want to go into reading it completely blind, skip this review and just go do it).
Perhaps what is most notable about the story is its scope, which is very small. Where series like Insurgent or The Hunger Games portray a protagonist enacting sweeping change at the head of a revolution, Dissolution focuses entirely on Madeline and her own personal journey. This is why, despite some of the confusing writing, the book is so compelling. Madeline is not a glorious hero who saves the day, but a single voice struggling to change the tide and save those she loves. I can’t say I’ve ever been part of a revolution, but I think it would feel much more like Madeline’s experience than Katniss Everdeen’s. One person standing up and speaking out, not knowing if she will be heard, not knowing if her words will make a difference, but taking the terrifying and ultimately hopeful journey on the idea that maybe she’s not alone. The core theme of Dissolution is that corporations are not entities themselves, but collections of people behind a common idea. Its far more subtle message is that revolutions follow the same principle, and no group will form without one person starting it.