Dystopia (Teen), Science Fiction (Teen), YA Fiction

The Voting Game by Peter Gulgowski

I was really excited to participate in my second blog tour, which gave me the opportunity to read this novel! Now that the tour is over, it’s time for me to post my review!

The Voting Game coverSummary (Goodreads): In the year 2084, Every Interaction Counts.
Darrius Young’s sixteenth birthday brings a harsh reality: It’s time to join the Voting Game. Playing is mandatory, and each day may be his last.

In this bleak future’s society, citizens rate their interactions with one another. Highest scorers are members of an elite upper-class. An average score means you can keep playing.

Fall below average? You are taken and killed by the government entity known only as The Bureau.

Darrius has prepared his whole life for this challenge, knowing the reality he will soon face — especially after the death of his mother to the game.

But despite preparation, he’s losing — and not just the Game. Suddenly the people he loves are getting brutally downvoted and taken by the Bureau. It’s soon clear there’s a target on his back, drawn there by the Bureau itself, and Darrius has no idea why.

In a frantic race against time in a society that’s already sentenced him to death, can Darrius save himself and those around him before it’s too late?

Review: This is a classic case of a novel with tons of potential … but not the best execution. I think that the author definitely has an interesting concept but the book could use some refinement.

I think that the plot itself was very interesting. The idea that people can rate each other and it determines whether you live or die is an awesome concept. While this idea could have been pushed further to incorporate a rewards system perhaps so that people are more motivated to reach the high-4 and 5 score, it wasn’t necessary, and I liked that the author kept it simple.

However, I feel like the story was a bit rushed and lacked the depth it needed. This is usually the case when an author tries to do too much with the plot. I don’t necessarily think that doing too much was the issue here; it was more that the different plot elements didn’t really connect well with each other. I wanted more of a search, more of an investigation, more moments where the pieces of the puzzle fit together. In this book, it happened a bit awkwardly and that took away from the story. Half of the time it felt like the novel was focused on the friendship and sexual orientation of the main character rather than the actual plot that is outlined in the story. This may have been because the author wants the readers to feel that emotional connection that Darrius has with his friends and family … but it didn’t work out that well. I never felt connected to Darrius and I found his interactions with those he was close with to be very awkward and staged, lacking that realistic element.

Another problem I had with the plot was that it was difficult to tell if this was a story about a society ruled by voting, or a story about being accepted for being gay. There were far too many elements exploring the latter and not enough of the former. I don’t have a problem at all with characters having sexual orientations other than hetero, and I also don’t have a problem with reading about their struggles against ignorant people. But when this becomes the focus of a story purported to be a dystopian fiction about a ranking system, then I don’t really like it. I also didn’t feel like it was presented in the best way; the issue of being accepted as gay was more told than shown, with characters saying cheesy, overused lines that didn’t express the realness of the situation too well.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the writing style. Apart from grammatical errors, I found the writing style to be a little childish. There were awkward phrases and jumps in scenes that took me aback. Again, it lacked the depth that this novel needed. I understand that this is a YA novel, but that doesn’t mean that the writing has to reflect the style of a 13-year-old.

While I think that this novel has a lot of potential, I think its execution prevents it from shining through. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.



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