Happy Banned Books Week!  The last week of September is the American Library Association’s recognition of attempts to inhibit reading and celebration of the First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press – which backs Americans’ right to read.  I spent yesterday, as well as a bit of today, talking to classes at all levels about Banned Books Week and what it means.  This “holiday” is one of my favorites, perhaps second only to Halloween.

For my review this week, I’m taking a bit of a different approach to the celebration.  Rather than reviewing a classic banned/challenged book – and most books considered “classics” have been challenged at some point – or a more recent book that has made the list, I’m reviewing an advanced copy of a book published by HarperCollins.

What’s the significance of this?  Earlier this year, HarperCollins decided to change their eBooks from permanent entities to files that disappear after 26 uses.  If a library owns one of their eBooks and it gets checked out every other week, it will no longer be part of the collection after a year.  This is utterly ridiculous in comparison to the shelf-life of the average physical library book.  So, with backing from the digital media service Overdrive – which provides thousands of digital audiobooks and eBooks to libraries around the world – libraries started a boycott against HarperCollins.  “We’re not buying your books until this changes,” we say.  Sometimes this means only eBooks, sometimes it encompasses all forms of books published by HarperCollins and all of its imprints.  But until HarperCollins changes its policy, many libraries are not buying.

Unfortunately, the company publishes a lot of great teen books.

This week, since I’m banned from buying HarperCollins books, I’m going to be naughty and tell you about a book they have coming out next week.  It’s Eve by Anna Carey.  I got an advanced reader’s edition for free from Snowbound Books to review.

Statistics
Checkouts: It goes on sale October 4, and it’s published by HarperCollins. Unless it’s donated, I don’t expect this to show up on the shelves.
Typical reader: Teen girls

Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic future where 98% of the world’s population has fallen victim to a plague, an orphan named Eve has done well in her all-girls School and will be graduating valedictorian of her class.  But a fellow senior, Arden, has seen what really awaits them in “trade school” after graduation, and escapes.  Eve finds out that Arden was right, and with the help of a teacher, slips away the night before the graduation ceremony.  Eventually she meets a young man, Caleb, who rescues her from danger and shows her that men are not the horrible monsters she has been taught to fear.  But the King’s men are looking for her.  Can she and Arden make it to the safety of Califia?

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars (4.5, really)

If the final version of the cover of this gives the book comparisons the galley’s cover offers, it’s not going to be a surprise to learn (provided you’re familiar with The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) that what awaits the girls in “trade school” is naught but helping to repopulate the world as demanded by the King of the New America.  Eve sneaks over to see the building where she thought she would pursue her dreams of becoming a muralist and sees girls she’d known from older grades strapped to bed with massive, pregnant bellies and sorrowful faces.  Orphan girls sent to the schools end up as “sows,” artificially inseminated and destined to suffer multiple births for the next 20 years of their lives in captivity.  No wonder Arden and Eve run away.

The wilds outside the City and the sequestered Schools are fraught with dangers – roving gangs, animals, and horror of all horrors, men.  The Schools teach the girls to fear all men, save for the King, and put spins on classic stories ranging from Romeo and Juliet to Lord of the Flies to show the dangerous, depraved ways of the male of the species.  So it’s a bit amazing that Eve actually accepts being saved by a young man on horseback from a mother bear.

Thus begins one of the healthiest, most natural romances I’ve read in young adult literature in a good while.  Seriously.  If you’re tired of bad boys, abusive vampires, fallen angels, and all of it, that’s reason enough to pick up the book.  Caleb is one of the nicest, sweetest, most devoted love interests available in teen novels today.  He’s completely realistic too, with flaws and insecurities that befit his age.

I also really liked the supporting female character, Arden.  In the course of the story, Eve learns that there’s much more to her raven-haired former classmate than just all the gags and pranks she used to play.  Arden is tough, smart, determined.  She’s a fascinating character that moves in and out of Eve’s story as the plot plays out all of its twists and turns.  I don’t want to give anything away, but I sincerely hope she shows up in the second book of the trilogy.

The story is pretty solid and interesting.  There are good times and horrific ones as Eve and Arden try to go west to Califia, where their teacher said refuge could be found.  Can they make it?  Will Caleb stay with them, or only help them get there?  Will they be intercepted by the King’s men, who are specifically looking to bring Eve back alive to their leader?  When will the second book be released, so I can find out what happens next?

Will HarperCollins relent their position on limiting eBooks, so I can actually buy this series??  (You can follow and learn more about the boycott at http://boycottharpercollins.com/)