Series: Eye of the Beholder #1
Published by Harper Voyager on January 9, 2018
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Format: eBook, Mass Market Paperback
Sexual Content: Kissing
Reviewed by: Tacoma
With shades of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and Ally Condie’s Matched, this dark, cinematic dystopian novel—the first in the thrilling Eye of the Beholder series—is set in a near future society in which "right" and "wrong" are manifested by beauty and ugliness.
In Grace Luther’s world, morality is physically enforced. Those who are "good" are blessed with beauty, while those who are not suffer horrifying consequences—disfigurement, or even death. When the cleric’s daughter stumbles onto information that proves her world is more complicated than it seems, she finds herself at the center of an epic battle where good and evil are not so easily distinguished. Despite all her efforts to live a normal teenage life, Grace is faced with a series of decisions that will risk the lives of everyone she loves.
With each page, Sarah Tarkoff masterfully tightens the screws in this electrifying debut novel that plunges us into a nightmarish and all too plausible future. Full of high-drama and pulsating tension, Sinless explores essential questions teenagers wrestle with every day: What is beauty? What is faith? Where does friendship end and love begin? Do we take our world at face value and accept all that we have been taught—or do we question the mores of the society into which we are born?
When I pick up a new dystopian novel, I'm always hopeful that the author will put a new spin on the genre. But at it's core, SINLESS is nothing new. Tarkoff has found a different, problematic way to divide society, but the same beats exist. The hero is at first blind to the horrors of her world, then her eyes open, and she decides to revolt and become the savior everyone apparently needs.
I had many problems with SINLESS. The first being that Grace is the least interesting person in the story. She comes from a place of intense privilege. She's beautiful. Her family is important. She's told again and again that she is irreplaceable. Her only obstacle is overcoming that privilege and recognizing that ugly people are still people and should be treated as such. As I made my way through SINLESS, I couldn't help thinking how much more interesting the book would be if the POV was from someone set up for failure rather than success.
Another issue I had was that Tarkoff is obviously a screenwriter first and an author second. SINLESS is largely dialogue without dialogue tags or descriptions. It's entirely up to the reader to imagine the details. Chapters are as short as two pages. And while it's a quick read at 304 pages, SINLESS is divided into multiple books. I couldn't fathom that decision.
Overall, I wish SINLESS had examined its themes more closely. Its plot device relies on a convoluted explanation made for television. People in our society are already judged by how they look and put into different boxes because of faith and perceived sin. We don't need a dystopian world to do it for us.More Reviews:
- For an unique dystopian novel with a powerful cast of characters, check out Company Town by Madeline Ashby.