Gated, by Amy Christine Parker

Amy Christine Parker's debut novel Gated occasionally strains credulity, but teen suspense fans are going to absolutely love it. It's engrossing, fast-paced, and about as real-world creepy as YA literature gets.

Seventeen-year-old Lyla has grown up as a member of the Community, a fringe religious group that believes the world is about to end. The Community is guided by the apocalyptic visions of their leader, Pioneer, who treats his followers with a constantly-shifting mix of paternal affection and terrifying authority. Pioneer controls everything: he decides who will marry, requires constant shooting practice (for post-Armageddon self-defense), and assigns strict punishments for misbehavior. Lyla truly believes her position in the Community is a gift, but a chance encounter with a boy from the outside world has her questioning the central tenets of her faith... even as Pioneer's scheduled End of Days appears to be fast approaching.

Teen readers aren't always the most empathetic bunch (and I suspect writing a story that requires them to sympathize with a socially isolated brainwashing victim is trickier than it sounds), so large chunks of Gated are devoted to making the cult lifestyle sound like fun. Apart from the assigned Significant Others and constant target practice, Lyla's childhood years with the Community are portrayed as a sun-washed haze of horseback rides and goofing off with friends, which goes a long way towards making her eventual uncertainty over who to trust more understandable. The end of the novel is a little formulaic, but Lyla's compelling internal conflict, Pioneer's eerie charisma, and the story's increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere are more than enough to make Gated a top-notch choice for anyone looking for an alternative to dystopian or supernatural horror.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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