So a writers’ group buddy gave me a proof copy of Jay Kristoff’s new novel LIFEL1K3 (which doesn’t look nearly as good without the capital letters) and I devoured it before I headed off to NZ for the ACLAR conference. It’s a quick read and I found it difficult to put down. I’m a fan of posthuman apocalyptic settings, especially when paired with YA as both are particularly well suited to each other (the angst of being a teenager - almost a rite of passage - fits well in dystopias).
It’s marketed as “Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max meets X-men, with a little bit of Blade Runner cheering from the sidelines” and it’s obvious these texts have influenced the novel from its conception. Kristoff (and his sometimes co-writer Amie Kaufman) often sums up his books this way but as I read the novel, these influences came across a little too strongly at times. Enough that I noticed the influence so much that I was briefly distracted from the narrative itself. Not a big thing though.
My favourite character by far was Eve’s dog, Kaiser, and Cricket, the android designed to protect Eve. Cricket’s personality is cheeky yet pessimistic (like a teenage version of Marvin the Paranoid Android from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and there’s a wonderful tension regarding whether or not his programming controls his emotions and thoughts or if he’s a real person. While there is some romance, the focus is really on Eve’s relationship with her best friend Lemon and the androids, which I’d love to see more of in YA.
That said, the ending kinda rubbed me the wrong way and I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but Eve’s attitude appears to flip on a dime. It left me not really liking her all that much as her following actions completely dismissed all the relationship development that occurred in the rest of the novel. It’s the first in a series, so it’s obviously setting up for the next book, but I’m not as keen as I would’ve been if my sympathies for the character hadn’t been reduced by the novel’s conclusion.
I also don’t think the Lifelikes’ actions were justified in the beginning, or at least not all of them. They were a bit too extreme, but overall I enjoyed this novel enough to chew through it in one sitting. I’ll still read the following novels (I don’t like leaving series unfinished) and if Eve maintains her lead, I hope to see her character further develop.