Eve by Anna Carey is light on the world-building as dystopias go. It’s not one of those books that offer an incisive commentary on some aspect of our existing culture. It’s more, “here’s a setting where things suck; now we have a backdrop for a romance/adventure story.” That’s not inherently bad. It just makes it a fluffy read, rather than a chilling one. Eve doesn’t possess the depth of books like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (which Carey quotes in the front matter) or George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. Even for a just-for-fun book, though, there are aspects of Eve’s world-building that don’t quite make sense.
The most jarring example is Eve’s education. Young orphan girls in Anna Carey’s “New America” are raised and educated to expect one kind of future, and then after graduation, are thrust into a completely different life than the one they were promised. This seems like an ineffective way to run an evil empire. Why do this bait and switch, which is expensive, time-consuming, pointless, and guaranteed to foster discontent? Why not just feed the girls propaganda about the life they’ll really have, selling it as a glorious mission?
Eve escapes the fate ordained for her at school, however, and finds herself on the lam. The rest of the novel follows her as she travels the ruins of the western United States looking for a safe haven. She makes an unlikely friend in a fellow runaway student, and also meets a boy and falls in love for the first time. If you’re looking for an exciting read about a girl and a boy falling in love while running from The Man, you may enjoy Eve.
For my part, though, I was irked. The illogic of the opening sequences got the book off to a bad start, and then I had issues with Eve as a character. She is a Mary Sue whose unique awesomeness is frequently touted. All the good guys love her. All the bad guys want to rape her, including the King of New America, whose obsession with a girl he’s never met is never really explained.
We are told of Eve’s selflessness, but her selfless acts are often told briefly or pushed offscreen. The behaviors we do see are frequently naïve (though this naiveté is understandable, to an extent) and selfish. My overall impression of Eve is that she does boneheaded things and then walks away unscathed while other people pay for her mistakes. If she learns a lesson, it’s the wrong lesson. At one point, she makes a mistake late at night. In the morning, she doesn’t confess to it until the evidence is discovered. Disaster follows. When Eve reflects on it later, she thinks, “It should’ve been the first thing I said when I awoke.” Not that she shouldn’t have done it, not that she should have asked and possibly learned a safer way to achieve her goal, not that she should have fessed up right after doing it — but that she should have said something earlier the following day.
The ending doesn’t seem to make much sense either. It feels, at first, like an out-of-character contrivance to create extra angst for book two. But on second thought, it fits pretty well with what we’ve seen of Eve so far.
[SPOILER. Please highlight if you’d like t o read it]: Eve reaches safety, while her badly injured boyfriend is left to fend for himself. I think the logic is that he’ll be safer without her. There’s some merit to that, but I just keep thinking about how badly injured he is and that he is all alone.