Possession by Elana Johnson is our pick for Best I've Read 2011 Day 4. Elana has written an awesome guest post for us and offered up a giveaway as part of BIR11!
By Elana Johnson
Published: June 7, 2011
by Simon & Schuster
Summary: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.
But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn. This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.
I first picked up this book from Simon Schuster as an E-ARC and then last week when I got a paper copy in the mail you know what I did? Something I've only ever done with a handful of books...I read it again. The paper in my hands and the awesome cover was too big a temptation to pass up. I loved Possession even more the second time around with it's layers of meaning and depth. Once you know what's going on with the main characters and reach the surprise ending, I'm sure you will want to do the same.
I felt an immediate draw to Possession's protagonist Vi with her sarcastic, fiery personality. She is one strong 15 year old who stands up for herself and isn't afraid to throw punches. Victoria Schoenfeld is a water worker living in the Goodlands with mom after her father went missing and sister died working in the hands of the government. Vi's a free thinker who's had more than one brush with the law. So when she's caught crossing borders to meet her match Zenn, a newly recruited special forces agent, the Greenies want consequences for Vi. They wish to rule a society where their model citizens, Goodies are "walking paper dolls" devoid of personality. All must plug into transmissions including messages about not lying and sticking to the rules. But Vi has stopped plugging in and has a mind of her own. Those in charge have an upper hand with advanced technology capable of modifying memories, scanning fingerprints and tracking identities. Vi can feel the tech in her bones and though her father invented it, she's not convinced it's not all that it seems. In the end it's a choice for Vi between "control or don't control, alone or together, Zenn or Jag, duty or death." (p.366)
Jag...oh Jag. Bad boy who likes to read, leader of the Resistance, lover of wicked hair and distributor of hair gel & illegal tech. He stole my heart with his laughter, calmness, and laid back personality. He'll snag yours the first time he utters the words "nice" and shrugs his shoulders. But readers beware that Jag is not alone in his efforts to win Vi and freedom, Zenn is fighting behind enemy lines.
Elana Johnson is genius. She's crafted characters that push and pull you in all directions. There is not a clear cut line between what is bad and what is good. The last 1/3 of the book feels like a choose your own adventure quest for the truth, full of action and suspense. Possession is an ingenious mix of dystopian, paranormal and science fiction that had me thinking long after I finished the book. If you're a fan of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, prepare yourself for something even more mind blowing. Control or be controlled? Join the Resistance.
Guest Post by author Elana Johnson: Choose to Conform
Wow, Heather’s hitting me with the hard stuff. She’s asked me to talk a little bit about the pressures teens face today to conform or be controlled (a theme in my dystopian novel POSSESSION).
I think there’s a lot of conformity that takes place during the teen years. As a mother of a teenager, I find myself doing it all the time.
Clean your room. Take out the trash. Get your homework done.
I find myself saying all that. And it’s not like, “Clean your room today sometime.” It’s “Clean your room right now.”
Basically, “Do what I say, when I say it.”
I think they face similar situations at school. They have to be in class by the time the bell rings. They have to take certain classes for graduation. They have to get certain grades to play sports, be a student aide, or participate in the special extra-curricular activities—not to mention the pressure to get into a “good” college and have the opportunity to have a “good” career.
Everything is set up to reward those that conform—and not just as a teen. I believe adults face similar situations at work, college, and life in general.
So yeah. I think there’s a lot of conformity going on. Do I think it’s all bad? Not at all. But I believe a couple of things:
1. There comes a point in your life when you have to decide what’s “good.” Your parents may be pressuring you to go to a certain college. Your friends may be pressuring you to do something you’re not sure about.
Ultimately, you need to take a step back and take a good hard look at your life. What do you believe? Why do you believe that? Who are you listening to? Why is what they’re saying right for you?
Those are the kinds of questions the main character in POSSESSION is constantly wrestling with. I think teens go through a similar period of their lives, and dude! I’m still regularly analyzing my life and where I’m spending my time and making what I do fit with what I believe and who I listen to.
It’s a life-long process, I think, that should be repeated each time you arrive at a cross-roads in your life. And with each decision you make based on your own personal belief system, the more confidence you’ll achieve. Confidence that you can live the best life—for you.
2. We can overcome obstacles by making informed decisions. Don’t just show up to vote because you can. Read and study and make an informed decision about the candidates.
Don’t just go to the same college as your parents. Read and study and make an informed decision, based on what you want to do with your life and the quality of the programs offered.
Don’t just go along with your friends, doing what they do or dressing the way they dress. You have to live inside your skin forever, and the decisions you make determine whether that skin is too tight or just right.
So yeah, I think there’s a lot of people out there conforming to societal rules and regulations. I don’t think they’re all bad. Not at all. But I do think each person has the opportunity to live the best life they can, and in order to do that, they need the freedom to make a few decisions on their own, after truly examining what it is they believe/want and then making life choices to support those things.
When we do choose how we will conform, self-confidence will be won and obstacles overcome.
Choose to Conform
About the Author: Elana's debut novel, Possession, is available now from Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster). Learn how to spell and say her name.
Elana wishes she could experience her first kiss again, tell the mean girl where to shove it, and have cool superpowers like reading minds and controlling fire. To fulfill her desires, she writes young adult science fiction and fantasy.
Using her boring human powers, she graduated from Southern Utah University with Summa Cum Laude honors in Elementary Education with a minor in Mathematics. She started her teaching career as an upper grade music and art specialist. After a four-year stint in 3rd grade, she is currently the technology specialist.
In her world, Oreos and bacon would be the only food groups. Everyone would drive 10 over the speed limit. Winter would be eliminated as a season, and Jeff Probst would be President. As it is, she lives with her husband and two kids in central Utah, gets cited when she drives too fast and eats Oreos only on special occasions.
Find Elana on her blog/facebook/ twitter/ goodreads
We have one copy of Possession to give away as part of Best I've Read 2011 courtesy of Elana and Simon & Schuster. To enter to win fill out this form. And be sure to check the Best I've Read home site for a chance to win Wolfsbane and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer as well.