TITLE: A Time To Die
AUTHOR: Nadine Brandes
GENRE: YA Dystopian Future
STORY: Over one hundred years in the future, everyone knows when they’ll die thanks to the Clocks which count down to the person’s end. Parvin Blackwater is 17 and only has one year left. She’s wasted her life so far, but wants to do something memorable, like saving Radicals who choose to live without Clocks and are thrown outside the Wall which surrounds civilization.
But being remembered is easier said than done. It means going across the Wall to see what awaits the exiled Radicals. It means suffering left and right. It means asking a thousand questions and receiving few answers. And it means racing against the ever-decreasing Clock.
A Time to Die is the first of the Out of Time trilogy. The second book, A Time to Speak is already out and the third book, A Time to Rise is in production.
RANDOMNESS: I got a new Kindle while reading this and somehow activated a setting that counted down the minutes to when I’d finish each chapter. Spooky coincidence.
WHAT WORKED: The Clock idea is compelling. It’s reminiscent of the film Out of Time, but unlike that film, time is not a currency to be exchanged, but an absolute, always-correct deadline. It also made sense that those without clocks would be considered radical and objects of contempt.
Parvin’s journey is also interesting, trying to make up for lost time in the truest sense. Her journey’s not an easy one, in fact it’s downright grizzly at times, and it’s nice to see her go through the story with a few, shall we say, encumbrances.
Most side characters are also interesting enough to care about. Parvin’s brother Reid shares a Clock with her, neither knowing whose it is thanks to a mistake at birth, and tries to live to the fullest. Biographer Skelly Chase is one evil sonofagun, but definitely leaves an air of mystery. Heck, even the childhood bully made me want to know more about him and he only had two brief scenes.
The Christian aspects aren’t preachy, even when it’s served on a silver platter. Parvin is exploring her faith and growing her relationship with God. That growth feels real and relevant without hammering it over the reader’s head. The message of shalom is very clear, but never screamed in your face. It’s integral to Parvin’s journey.
Throughout the book there were many clever phrases, one of my favorite being “I scrape a teaspoon of voice from my windpipe” to describe Parvin’s fear. Even with the flaws, the story is well-written.
WHAT NEEDS WORK: The story is a bit meandering. While each location has compelling dangers and feels real enough (for the most part), I remember getting to 70% on my Kindle and thinking, “Is this going somewhere?” The point of Parvin’s journey is vaguely defined and it takes quite a while for the pieces to line up. HOWEVER, this is mostly intentional. Parvin has no idea what to do or how to make her life meaningful, so she has to do a lot of trial and error.
The world also needs more fleshing out. We get fleeting glimpses of why the world is a dystopian place, but what does that have to do with the Clocks? And why did that person who caused the apocalypse do that thing in the first place? Why exactly was a wall erected between the eastern and western United States? Why does everybody walk on tightropes (that’s not a metaphor)? Hopefully, we’ll learn more about the world in future books.
I hate to say this, but the story had echoes of other dystopian stories like Hunger Games and Divergent. Late-teen girl going against her oppressive government, living on the fringes of a poor society while the higher class ignores them, a cute young girl who’s really just there to be a cute young girl, mysterious world origins, a cute-but-frustrating boy, fear simulations, and miscellaneous future tech. They’re all small, but they add up.
I couldn’t like two of the main characters. Jude is the sort-of romantic interest who’s nice one minute, then a jerk the next, and never quite hit that healthy medium for me. Willow, the aforementioned cute girl, really doesn’t add much to the story. In fact, the story almost functions entirely without her.
OVERALL: 3.5/5 stars. The good outweighs the bad. While some parts get frustrating, even those moments are well-written. It’s also nice to see a Christian fiction that cares about the story as much as its message. There’s enough mystery to keep the reader going and it ends on a high note (so to speak) that left me wondering what happened next.
There’s also one last thing that separates this story from other YA heroine adventures: Parvin makes bad choices. Most stories have their heroine dealing with bad circumstances or suffering for doing the right thing. Many of Parvin’s problems are self-inflicted and it’s nice to see a character who has to deal with the fallout of her own decisions (or lack thereof).
RATINGS (for those who care):
Violence: 5/10. Brief bits of fighting or shooting, but two particularly painful moments, though they’re not graphic at all (can’t tell you what they are without spoilers).
Sexuality: 1/10. Brief allusions to mentionings of concepts in the neighborhood of sex and nudity.
Language: 0/10. Nothing I can remember.
Substances: 0/10. Nothing here either.
Mature Themes: 4/10. Lots of talk about death and plenty of insinuations of other deaths. Nothing too morbid; mostly used as a fuel rather than a point of despair.