Author: Bethany Hagen (Twitter)
Publish Date: February 4, 2014
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Source: Personal Copy
In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won't allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate.As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty - her family and the estate she loves dearly - and desire.
In a futuristic society run almost entirely on nuclear energy, Landry Park offers readers a powerful conceptual dystopian in which society is separated into strict classes. Dystopians are, more often than not, a dime a dozen on the YA market these days, so reading a novel with about a broken society in a somewhat imaginable future is a breath of fresh air. Bethany Hagen has crafted a novel that's as enticing as it is intriguing, and the premise promises readers a true fractured future, though I felt some of the hype was more potent than the novel itself.
Landry Park is touted as the "Downton Abbey" of dystopians, leading a reader like me to expect clear, concise and believable class distinctions that are marked by duties and responsibilities. While, yes, the novel offers us clear class hierarchies, I felt that it failed to explain how the separation of classes truly came about, which became an almost fundamental flaw for me, as it seemed so very crucial to the world-building of the novel. The descriptions of the gentry and the Rootless, however, are solid and remarkable, making them tangible. The gentry really grated on me, as I could almost taste their acrid sense of entitlement, while I felt great sorrow and loss for the hardships the Rootless had to endure.
And yet, I struggled to find our protagonist, Madeline's, place in all of the hardships of this future society. On the surface, she played her role very well as the self-important wealthy girl longing for a life that's different than the one she lived out. More than once, we read and understand that she longs to make a difference and make a change in the way society functions, but I felt that her motives and reasoning for wanting this change were never really explored through Landry Park. I wanted to become fully invested in her desires for change and her plight to right the wrongs of society, but I found myself thinking only that she satisfied, but did not fulfill her role in its entirety.
Landry Park also offers readers a touch of romance through the budding relationship between David and Madeline. David's character was more fleshed out than Madeline's but I never truly grasped the poignancy of their relationship. Rather, it felt more like a plot device to further our protagonist's agenda and endgame of creating change. Thus, their relationship and the romance that I'd hoped would offer us a bit more drama, ended up only offering a slight diversion with little to no substance.
Overall, I can't say that Landry Park was the best dystopian I've ever read, though I do admire the risks that Ms. Hagen took. I feel that if the story had had another 200 pages, we might have had the full society and plot devices to create a truly memorable dystopian novel, but in the end, I'm not entirely certain it stood out from the crowd for me. I give this novel a 2.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy lighter dystopian novels.