Floor 21 – Jason Luthor
As humanity lives out the remainder of its existence at the top of an isolated apartment tower, young Jackie dares to question Tower Authority and their ban on traveling into the tower's depths. Intelligent and unyielding, Jackie ventures into the shadows of the floors below. But will her strong will and refusal to be quiet—in a society whose greatest pride is hiding the past—bring understanding of how humanity became trapped in the tower she has always called home, or will it simply be her undoing?
#ReadIndie Review: A YA dystopia that takes place entirely inside a deadly skyscraper? I was totally ready for this book.
Most of Floor 21 is narrated by seventeen-year-old Jackie. She’s spent her entire life inside a massive tower with 15,000 other people. They’ve been there for so many generations that no one remembers how they got there or what’s outside the tower. Jackie is determined to solve the mysteries of the tower, but it won’t be easy. Tower Authority doesn’t like it when the residents ask questions. Then, there’s the Creep, a plantlike organism that grows on the walls and preys on humans. Jackie’s quest for answers may end up killing her.
Jackie is an easy character to root for. She’s strong-willed, funny, curious, and not intimidated by danger. While other characters run away from problems, she runs toward them. Her voice and view of the world are unique. My only problem with Jackie is that I occasionally forgot her age. She often acts and speaks like she’s much younger than seventeen. There’s even a scene where her father kneels down to talk to her. Isn’t a seventeen-year-old nearly full-grown? I actually flipped back through the book to remind myself of her age. She seems more like a thirteen-year-old than a seventeen-year-old to me.
The plot is fast-paced, and the world is developed enough that it’s pretty believable. The tower has its own government, urban legends, and religious practices. The world outside the tower is so environmentally damaged that rain is deadly. I was completely absorbed in this story. I wanted to know more about the Creep and what’s happening on Floor 1. The bizarre setting hooked me immediately and kept me reading.
The biggest reason I didn’t love Floor 21 is because of the structure. First, there’s an awkward point-of-view shift halfway through the book. We switch from Jackie’s POV to the POV of a bland Scavenger who basically gives the reader a giant info-dump. The information is (somewhat) important, but it yanked me out of the story. I wanted to get back to the action.
The novel is written as a series of audio recordings made by the two narrators. This structure makes no sense to me. I wasn’t always sure when the characters were making the recordings. The narration is in present tense, so does that mean Jackie is wandering around the tower with a recorder, narrating everything she does out loud? That’s . . . weird. You’d think the other characters would notice. Also, how is she sneaking through vents and fighting Creep while talking to herself and holding a digital recorder? Unless I missed something important, the structure of the book isn’t logical.
Jackie’s parents also irritate me. Jackie’s mother is “crazy,” and her father doesn’t always come home after work. They have valid reasons for their behavior, but why couldn’t they tell Jackie sooner? Telling her didn’t seem very hard. Why did they let her worry about them for so long? And, why did Jackie’s mom let Jackie make audio recordings if the recordings could get the family in trouble with Tower Authority? I found myself questioning the logic of this story so often that I was distracted while reading.
Floor 21 has an unusual plot and an interesting young narrator, but I got frustrated with the holes in the story’s logic.
I was given a free copy of this book as part of the #ReadIndie Challenge. This does not influence my review.