Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Sixteen-year-old Madeline Landry is practically Gentry royalty. Her ancestor developed the nuclear energy that has replaced electricity, and her parents exemplify the glamour of the upper class. As for Madeline, she would much rather read a book than attend yet another debutante ball. But when she learns about the devastating impact the Gentry lifestyle—her lifestyle—is having on those less fortunate, her whole world is turned upside down. As Madeline begins to question everything she has been told, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana, who seems to be hiding secrets of his own. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty—her family and the estate she loves dearly—and desire.”
I have to give the author props for skillfully setting up this society. My initial reaction was “Oh, this would never happen”, but the more I read, the more I realized that it could. And it has. A society based purely on whether you’re high class or low class has happened many times—it sort of reminded me of British society, especially during the 1800s. There are even vestiges of it in our own society, although we probably don’t want to acknowledge that. There’s a distressing tendency to demonize the poor in today’s world, and this book’s worldbuilding is just an extension of that.
As part of that, I liked how Madeline’s character feels like an accurate reflection of how someone might come to grips with realizing what their society is really like. Madeline is most definitely a product of her upbringing in many ways, raised with the attitudes that define this version of America, but she also isn’t afraid to think for herself. She goes back and forth mentally as she figures out not only what she can do to change things, but what she wants to do. And she finds out that ability and desire are two entirely different things. Ultimately, she’s a character that I can admire—she’s not perfect, but she’s honest about her thoughts and feelings and tries to do what’s right.
The story is full of action and moves along at a good pace. Some of it is the kind of action that sees Madeline sneaking around the poorer areas of her city and exploring places that most Gentry don’t see, and some of it is the kind of action that takes place in meetings and drawing room gatherings and mostly involves the mental gymnastics of information gathering. Both are equally interesting and help to slowly fill in the blanks about how this society came to be.
Landry Park is a novel that will surprise you with its ability to not only entertain you, but to also make you think. I’ll be watching for Hagen’s next book, because I definitely want to see what happens next.