The Cage by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Cage #1
Published on May 26, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Format: ARC, Paperback
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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 Daughter trilogy.
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 concept of this book sounded really interesting, and I was excited to read it. Basically, a small group of teenagers find themselves in an alien zoo. They are observed and tested by more advanced species called the Kindred. It is written in third person, which I found refreshing in the vast sea of first person YA, and the chapters each focus on different characters, which serves to keep things interesting and selectively reveal information. Unfortunately, I found it hard to get into.
The mystery and scifi aspects of this book are what kept me reading. There were a lot of cool alien technologies and concepts. Some of them, like kids having their fingers chopped off so Aliens could make tea from their knuckles, were kind of dark and creepy. Megan Shepherd built a rich world, though our view of it is limited by the characters’ imprisonment. I was curious to see what happened, though not terribly emotionally involved. There were a few slow spots, but the foreshadowing of revelations and events to come kept me reading. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was a solid case of “nothing is as it seems.”
“Tell me why you really took us. Is it for your own amusement? Or are we test subjects for new drugs you don’t want to test on yourselves?” She swallowed, almost losing her resolve. “Or are you studying us because you want to see how humans will react when you attack Earth?”
“Attack Earth?” For someone who suppressed his emotions in public, he sounded sincerely surprised – or else he was a good liar. “That is another endearing trait of your species. Your vivid imagination.”
In the spirit of complete honesty, my main issue was with the characters. I found them to be more like caricatures of stereotypes than living breathing literary entities. There’s a big, hulking guy with a hair-trigger temper, a manipulative pretty girl, the token scrawny, awkward smart guy, a politician’s daughter with a deep, dark secret, and of course there’s a cute guy from the wrong side of the tracks that has a big heart. Even worse, I didn’t particularly like any of them. I can’t say I was really rooting for anyone in this group at all. The character development was kind of abrupt at times, making it hard to understand their motivations.
On a high note, the end is a total whirlwind.
I’m conflicted about this book. While I thought the story was clever and intriguing, I didn’t ever connect to any of the characters which is a big problem for me as a reader. That being said, there was a lot of really cool scifi stuff, and the plot was full of mystery and twists.
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