Wednesday, September 23, 2015

CSFF Tour: The First Principle

Title: The First Principle
Series: Standalone novel?
Author: Marissa Shrock
Genre: YA Dystopia
Ratings: Craft—2, Content—2, Overall—2.7 out of 5 stars

Excerpt from the first chapter of The First Principle:

The biggest rebellions begin with the smallest steps, and I took my first small step one December morning during study hall. The quiet drumming of fingers on desktops filled the room as my classmates used keyboards projected from their government-issued multiphone devices to work. I tried to concentrate on writing an essay for my literature class, but the blinding glare reflecting from the sun on the snow outside made it difficult for me to see my screen. I didn’t mind. The glare gave me the perfect excuse to let my thoughts wander to Ben Lagarde. Three weeks ago he’d broken up with me, and while I’m not the type to fall in love, I really cared for Ben until he ended our relationship.

A pregnant teen must decide to either terminate per government regulations or join a rebellion to protect her baby.

Craft: How do I describe The First Principle? Many adjectives have flitted through my head since I started reading this book: Flat. One-sided. Agenda-driven. Unflattering terms which aren’t really fair to this story.

After all, the story has a premise full of foundational conflict. The protagonist’s voice has a good cadence to it. There are some likeable characters, and the plot is well-paced with a couple of interesting twists.

Yet, despite all this, I could never pick out the protagonist’s voice in a crowd; I missed the complex world-building that is essential to a good dystopia as a good fantasy; and I never sat on the edge of my seat in suspense. In fact, The First Principle stirred very little emotion in me despite the emotionally charged topic.

As a result, I felt like I was merely told a story rather than invited to live it.

Content: The content of The First Principle, much like the craft, felt unremarkable to me. Perhaps it’s me, as I’ve heard these exact same arguments for Christianity and against abortion over and over and over. So no doubt there’s a place for this story among the next generation. Still, I longed for more—for a fresh insight or the kind of reminder that makes me passionately reaffirm what I believe.

This dystopic story also unnerves me as it seems to reinforce the common Christian-vs.-them mentality many have today, as well as a quickness to rebel against any authority when the world doesn’t meet our standards.

Yes, there are times when we have to disobey the authorities when they clearly and directly contradict Scripture. Yes, we are not to love the world and are at war with the ruler of this world, Satan. Yes, sometimes these views will cause very deep divisions, even to the point of betrayal and abandonment within families. All of these this story beautifully portrays. Yet with these views already dominating in so many Christian circles to the extreme, I craved for the counterbalances to be also given within the story. For we are not at war with the people who live in this world—or at least, not with very many of them. And how often could a peaceable solution be found, like in Daniel Chapter 1, if we would only look for it?

As for other common content issues, this book does focus on a teenage pregnancy in a dystopic world. As a result, there are a few references to off-the-page sex, to abortion, to a birth described in low-key terms, and a few acts of violence—also described non-graphically—along with non-explicit cursing/swearing. In short, all problematic issues are well handled and accessible to a fairly young audience.

Summary: The First Principle was an unremarkable book in either craft or content for me. Its content may be helpful for a few teens, and no doubt many conservative Christians will love the story because it tells them what they want to hear. But if you want the thought-provoking or the emotionally engaging, you may have to look elsewhere.

Ratings: Craft—2, Content—2, Overall—2.7 out of 5 stars

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. 

No comments: