I picked up a copy of Gated by Amy Christine Parker on sale at B&N recently and must admit that I didn’t know what to expect. It’s billed as a “thriller” but I’m not sure that it isn’t more of an exploration of the impact of general fear of society’s ills on the minds of otherwise innocent folks. Does that make it a thriller? I don’t know. Certainly, the final third of the book is packed with nail biting action, but the first part of the book is more of a psychological exploration of the main characters.
Parker is really exploring the phenomenon of cults: what makes people believe in something that would seem objectively outlandish e.g. the end of the world is coming so we have to prepare to lock ourselves in a silo for the duration because we are the chosen ones. Thus, readers have to be able to suspend their disbelief along with the main characters in order to understand this phenomenon. I would have found it easier to engage in this exercise if cult-leader Pioneer had come across as more charismatic on the page. As it was, he seemed a little insubstantial and almost comical occasionally so I wondered why these folks were so easily prepared to follow him. That point aside, however, I did believe in heroine Lyla’s struggles when confronted with facts that don’t fit everything she’s grown up believing. She’s a sympathetic heroine who has to overcome her natural passiveness in order to make difficult choices to protect the people she loves. There’s a lot in this book about faith, trust, and the dangers of trusting the wrong people. And those struggles are certainly believable.
This book is an intriguing addition to the YA genre because I’ve never read anything quite like it plotwise, aimed at the youth market. There is some rather graphic violence on the page, but probably nothing that an older teen reader couldn’t cope with. And it’s all relevant (in fact, necessary) to the plot. I’ll be watching this writer with interest in the future to see what she comes out with next.