Review: United by Jaci Wheeler

piranha stars turquoise 2

Excellent writing … shame about the story (or lack of)

About the book:

When the United States of America crumbles under civilian protests and riots, a new United America rises from the ashes…

After a reformation, United America runs like a well-oiled machine. Solar power trumps fossil fuels, strict laws keep crime at an all-time low, and at sixteen, residents are assigned their role in society—and fulfill it without complaints. But unbeknownst to the citizens, they are also under constant monitoring, and reigning President Vaughn has eyes in every sector of the gleaming country.

When Rosaline Thatcher turns sixteen, it is time to receive her position in society…

When President Vaughn calls Rosaline to the stage, she dutifully follows orders. Though she dare not disobey, it’s unclear why she is being singled out. As she passes her best friend, Wesley, she’s reminded of what’s at stake. With her new role, she could be torn from her friends and family forever.

Rosaline goes from ordinary citizen to leader of the free world…

Shocked and overwhelmed, Rosaline can’t understand why she was chosen for the most vital position of all. But with great power comes great responsibility, and with the help of those closest to her, the fate of their thriving country rests in her hands.

When she discovers a secret location only known as the O.C., the United America Rosaline thought she knew may turn out to be history’s greatest fraud…

In a society where citizens obey without question, what will happen when one girl dares to defy, and what will that mean for United America?

Cover of Jaci Wheeler's United

Click to see for yourself

Review by Katy Haye:

I rather thought this story was a waste of evident writing talent. Jaci Wheeler can clearly write well and there was no problem zipping through the pages. But I had a couple of massive problems with the story.

*There are spoilers ahead, don’t continue if you don’t want to see them*

Key was that NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS. You would think that a story about a 16-year-old being appointed President would be full of drama, but it was all tediously low key. Stuff happened, but it was all on the level of: get up – eat dinner – show a bunch of adults what they’re doing wrong – go to bed. Everyone agreed with each other the whole time. There was no friction, no conflict and consequently I didn’t really care what was happening or to whom.

My other issue was that this newly-envisioned slimmed-down USA was utterly unconvincing. Everyone was impossibly nice and co-operative and harmonious. And yet, despite that fact, Ros has been selected to be President because she appears to be the only person found (despite 24/7 surveillance Big Brother would be proud of) to be capable of behaving like a civilised human being and treating other people with any degree of respect and humanity.

And the premise of a 16-year-old being selected as President and slipping straight into the job with everyone non-stop positive that she was the best thing ever simply didn’t gel with me. I just couldn’t accept that no adults would have a problem with someone so young having the top job. But nope, despite her being pretty patronising to many of them, they were all overjoyed to serve.

She wandered through the book spotting things “wrong” with the country that simply made me scratch my head – people with disabilities are written off instead of being brought into working adult life? Well, of course that’s wrong – BUT DON’T YOU THINK THEIR FAMILIES MIGHT HAVE HAD SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT IT? Despite everyone being 100% bought-in to harmonious US life, a few bad apples persist and must be incarcerated. Our heroine discovers that the prisons are inhumane and everyone working in them knows that fact BUT IT TAKES A 16-YEAR OLD GIRL TO POINT THIS OUT. Nope, not buying it.

Furthermore, this US seemed to exist in a weird vacuum. One of the key jobs of a President is surely to represent the country to other countries (‘Leader of the Free World’ is mentioned in the book description above). Except that there didn’t seem to be any other countries in this world – or this harmonious, glorious US existed suspended  in a bubble apart from them.

I guess the ending was supposed to be some kind of a twist that upped the stakes, but it certainly didn’t intrigue me enough to make me want to read more. I nearly gave up at 50% through, but decided that would be a waste of the time I’d already spent. Having persevered to the end I’m not sure I was right about that.

Afraid I really can’t recommend this one.

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