I don't know what I was expecting from [b:Gated|15752340|Gated|Amy Christine Parker|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1356086554s/15752340.jpg|21447291]. My first bet was on zombies but, if not that, my second guess was Mormons. Turns out I was wrong! This is a book that starts mild and entertaining. It paints you a picture of the protagonist - Lyla - and introduces the reader to her life which, though strange, seems peaceful and pleasant. But then, like a hidden monster crouching beneath the surface, the dark creepiness starts to be unveiled to us. The community where Lyla lives might not be the sanctuary she's always believed. And the man who leads them might be hiding secrets Lyla never imagined.
[b:Gated|15752340|Gated|Amy Christine Parker|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1356086554s/15752340.jpg|21447291] completely took me by surprise; from the plot to the characters to the way I felt myself getting more and more hooked as the story went on. This is one of those times when I really appreciate a creepy realistic thriller instead of something more supernatural. There's something deeply chilling about the knowledge that - not only could this happen - but it actually does in many places around the world. I've always been a bit fascinated by cults and their many forms. What does it take to convince people to give up their lives and join you in believing something that, more often than not, is completely bizarre? It amazes me even further the way these small communities tend to reject national law in favour of placing all power in the hands of their own dictator. It amazes me that some people actually have the charm and influence to make this happen.
It's weird to think that these aren't all crazy people or those who've been born into this life and know nothing else. Cults also recruit people who have your standard, 9-to-5, average lives and make them believe something other than what they've always known. It's scary. I don't know about you, but it makes me question my own susceptibility. As much as I'd like to say a very firm "no", is it possible that I could get caught up in something like this? I mean, judging by the half-empty tub of Ben&Jerry's in my freezer, I wouldn't say I'm about to win any willpower awards. Who knows? The psychology of cult behaviour is both fascinating and terrifying.
Back to the book. As I touched upon before, the pace of the novel seems to slowly increase as you move along. One minute I thought I was safe and then suddenly I'd gotten to the climax of the novel and my pulse was pounding. It's a book that will make you angry, then sad, then scared for Lyla, then angry again. More than anyone in this book, I felt such a huge sense of outrage towards Lyla's parents. They let her down, put her in danger and stood by while she was physically abused. I don't know if this is really a spoiler but I'll tag it just in case: I was still really angry at the end. I wanted them to be punished for the terrible way they'd treated their daughter. Lyla forgave them for everything way too easily, IMO.
Possibly the thing I like most about this book is the way the author isn't afraid to go there. Not many YA authors are brave enough to put their characters through several levels of hell. I don't like situations in books (or movies, tv, etc.) where the tension is sapped out of the moment by the knowledge that the writer(s) will never dare kill the good guys or just, you know, go there. I don't even know why the Vampire Diaries writers insist on having those scenes where Damon nearly dies with dramatic music in the background. No one actually believes they're going to kill off Ian Somerhalder's character - they'd lose at least half their viewers! Okay, I will stop digressing.
There is one thing I take issue with in this book. And it's Cody. I didn't mind the touch of romance between him and Lyla because it was kept on the sidelines but I would question her decision to trust him in the first place. Lyla has never trusted anyone from the outside because she believes they're damned and evil and yet, despite this, she trusts Cody. Why? I'll tell you: because he is SO HOT. It didn't bug me in this anywhere near as much as it did in [b:Hopeless|15717943|Hopeless (Hopeless, #1)|Colleen Hoover|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1353489892s/15717943.jpg|21389085], but I keep seeing this whole thing where girls trust male strangers/people they've been specifically warned about because of their pretty faces. It's kind of a dangerous message, even if Lyla was right to trust him. But the positives outweigh the negatives by a lot.
I really enjoyed this book and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more by Ms Parker.