Title: The Murder Complex
Author: Lindsay Cummings
Pages: 262 (Nook) (At least that's what mine says. But B&N says 416)
Reason For Reading: Personal Interest
Synopsis: The Murder Complex is an action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate.
Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision. The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn't know it—one of the MC's programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or is it part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?
I'll start by saying that I have no idea why my Nook has the page count at 262 when B&N insists it should be 416 pages, but I am quite confident that there were not 200 pages missing from my book, so I think my Nook is just formatting it weird.
If you follow me on Twitter you know that I was excited about the premise of this book from the start. I love me a good dystopian thriller. I read the the first chapter on B&N.com, fell in love with Meadow's narrative voice, and bought it for my Nook immediately. And it did not disappoint.
The first thing that struck me was how naturally Cummings was able to start world building right from the start without falling into the info dump pit; the narration drew me into the world of The Shallows right from the first page. It is immediately obvious that this is going to be a show don't tell type of book, and if you read my review for The Maze Runner you know how quickly I tire of excessive telling, so I really appreciated the change.
The narration of the book is split up between Meadow and Zephyr, both as first person narrators, which threw me off a little bit at the beginning. But the characters have distinctly different voices, so I did not find it particularly difficult to follow who was speaking and I think it worked really well for this book. I personally preferred Meadow's narration to Zephyr's, I found him a bit whiny, but it was interesting getting to see scenes play our from both of their perspectives.
I really loved Meadow's narration. As I mentioned it was one of the first things that grabbed my attention, and it held it throughout the book. She is a fantastic protagonist. Cummings did an excellent job making her a complex character and making her a character that we as readers can connect to and empathize with despite her cold tendencies. As a person she is rough, to be sure, but I never wondered why she was that way. And despite her circumstances, she is still a person. She is not simply cold and hard 24/7. Her walls come down from time to time. She gets curious. She has spontaneous moments of compassion. She is not one-dimensional, even if she wants to portray herself that way sometimes.
I also really liked the dynamic between Meadow and her family, especially her father. He reminded me a lot of John Winchester (who incidentally my list of Top 5 Worst Fictional Fathers) but I did not have the same reaction to Meadow's father as I did John. Considering the type of world they are living in, I think I would have wanted a father to teach me to defend myself too. But I liked that it was never quite that simple. Meadow understands why her father is the way he is, and appreciates his teachings, but they still took their toll on her relationship with him, as we would expect.
Once I started reading the book I got a bit frustrated with the synopsis. It seems like Zephyr being a programmed assassin was meant to be a bigger mystery, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more not knowing from the beginning what was going on. There were a few other twists thrown in that made up for it a bit, and there was certainly still plenty of mystery to the book, but I wish they would have left that to be a surprise too. I just felt like I knew things I wasn't supposed to know.
There are a few things that I didn't love, probably the biggest of which being how quickly Meadow and Zephyr's relationship forms. The instant love is something I find problematic any time it is used, but it felt particularly unrealistic in this book considering Meadow's background. Zephyr's end I can understand, all thing considered, but it seems highly unlikely that Meadow would ever trust someone that quickly. Her curiosity about him made sense; the instant attraction, not so much.
I also did not appreciate how frequently "girl" was used as an insult, or rather that it was used but never challenged. Obviously real people use it, so it makes sense that characters would too, but the fact that it was universally accepted by all the characters irritated me. The biggest badass in the book is a girl, proving that girls are not weak and helpless, which was something that I loved about the book from the very beginning. Having so many of the characters, worst of all Meadow herself, use this sexist (and frankly down right stupid) insult took away from my excitement over having such a strong female protagonist. I had actually hoped Zephyr would use it in front of Meadow and she'd throw him on his back for it, since she is walking proof of how ridiculous that concept it, and that would have been awesome, but instead she ended up using it towards him. Super disappointing.
I highly recommend giving this book a shot. I read it all in a single sitting. I never got bored and I never hit a spot that felt like a good place to end for the night because I always needed to know what happened next. I have high hopes for the rest of this series and for Cummings as an author in general. As far as debuts go, she's got a pretty good thing going for her right now.
A small aside: when you buy a new book, make sure to check if it is book one in a series BEFORE you start reading. I did not pay attention when I bought it and did not notice that it is the first in a series. So naturally I got about 20 pages from the end and started realizing that there is no way everything is getting resolved in time. After finishing the book, which leaves off on a massive cliff hanger by the way, I sat in silence for a few minutes before looking it up on Goodreads. Oops. Now I wait in agony until the next book is released.