Middle Ground by Katie Kacvinsky ( website | twitter )
Sequel to Awaken.
Publication Date: November 20, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: dystopian, technology, parent/child relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher (Thanks!)
Summary: The fight against a digital school takeover is intensified when Maddie is unexpectedly sent to a detention center. Can she break out? Can she make things better?
In my review of Awaken from a few weeks ago, I talked about how much I loved the premise of this series. What happens when technology completely takes over our lives? Sure it seems like things would get easier, but at what price?
I’m just going to come out and say it. I was hoping for more in Middle Ground. The battle here is the same. Letting people choose between technology and really living. Letting them have the choice. Maddie has already escaped her home, where her mom has fond memories of how life used to be and her dad is in charge of the digital schools. And now she is stuck in a detention center because of an act of rebellion gone awry. (She is a very feisty character.)
The plot of Middle Ground comes down to getting Maddie to survive her time in the detention center, while her friends find ways to free the other children who are locked up as well. And that’s all well and good, but I felt the bigger picture was lost. There are so many untapped storylines that would have made for a more effective novel. The conflict between Maddie and her parents doesn’t even come into play much, and I believe this should have been the key element of the story: how do you choose between technology and the right to make your own decisions when they are inexplicably tied to your family?
Kacvinsky didn’t find her rhythm with the plot; instead, it felt like a lot of romance and a lot of Maddie’s inner thoughts. I liked Justin and Maddie’s interactions, and the way they cared for one another, but I would liked to have seen something more at stake. Even just a few secret exchanges with her mother? A meeting with her father earlier in the story? Structurally, the story could have been stronger. And as for the writing, there was almost too much of it. Cliche phrases punctuated too many paragraphs and could have easily been cut for a better reading experience.
Awaken also suffered from too much telling, and I wanted this story to be better pared down. Unfortunately, it was difficult to take the dangers these characters were facing seriously when they were drowning in unnatural and unnecessary wordplay.