Mockingjay Book Club – Tomorrow Girls: Behind the Gates
Hi everyone! Today’s November 3rd, which means I’m late for our first Mockingjay.net Book Club discussion, focused on Scholastic’s Tomorrow Girls: Behind the Gates by Eva Gray. I was about to post this when the Vanity Fair article hit the net, so I postponed it until today.
Set in a dystopian Chicago where pollution has made the air quality horrible and the cities overcrowded, best friends Louisa and Maddie are chosen to head out to CMS, or Country Manor School, to learn survival skills and get some fresh air. Regulated by ID bracelets, Maddie and Louisa must pretend to be sisters to get them both to the school, something they don’t have much trouble with since they’ve been friends for so long.
However, once they get to the school and meet the others girls, their friendship begins to break apart as they see how differently they view the political landscape, the purpose of the school, and choose different interests. They meet tough girl Rosie and conspiracy theorist Evelyn on the bus and end up being roommates with them, eventually banding together to discover a terrible secret about Country Manor School.
Check below the cut for the rest of my review, which will contain spoilers.
While I understand the reason Scholastic offered us this book, I have to start out by saying that this series is no Hunger Games. It’s most definitely aimed at girls that may be a little too young to be reading the violence of Panem and is therefore also toned down in writing quality to make it easier for younger girls to relate to. The story, while having a few interesting plot points, is at times weak, lacking details that would make it a much stronger reading experience.
For instance, the war going on between the Alliance and the non-Alliance (I don’t recall the other side ever being given a name) is mentioned, but no great detail is provided. The city of Chicago is very overcrowded with terrible air, but a bus ride later, the girls arrive in cool, crisp air with forest all around them. This doesn’t really lend much weight to a true dystopian world because I’d expect that the people in the cities to simply migrate out into the wilderness. In some parts, the events weren’t very believable. I don’t really get how a whole group of girls could break camp and sneak off without Louisa, Evelyn, or Maddie realizing it.
However, I tried to put those complaints aside and read it with the understanding that it was for a young audience (8-13) and this helped quite a bit in getting an overall opinion of the book. I cared enough about the characters to want to read the next book, but will probably end up waiting until my daughter is old enough to read this (probably next year) and then if she asks for the sequels, I’ll get them for her then. Back when I was of the reading age of these books (which was, scarily enough, two decades ago) I was reading the R.L. Stine books and Babysitter’s Club. The overall tone and quality of Tomorrow Girls really reminded me of these books and I did enjoy them as a young girl, so I don’t see why girls of that age wouldn’t enjoy this one.
The biggest complaint I have about the book is the same complaint I end up having about other dystopian novels such as Divergent and Delirium and that is that the first book consists mostly of an agonizingly slow discovery of the world around the protagonist. When we’re introduced to these characters, they’re very innocent and naive and take at least 3/4ths of the novel to understand the way their world works.
In direct contrast, as soon as we’re introduced to Katniss, we’re aware of her intimate understanding of how things work in Panem. She knows how to work the cameras. She knows when to hide her emotions. She knows what the Capitol is doing to them all. The Hunger Games charges straight to the meat of the story, only filling you in about the nation and the political structure as you go. This is what I’ve seen to be consistently lacking in many young adult books I read today.
A positive aspect of Tomorrow Girls is the message it delivers about the importance of self-sufficiency. The Tomorrow Girls are thirteen years old and what the underlying story tells its readers is that thirteen is not too young to contribute to society or to learn how to survive on your own. With the world so often teetering on the brink of economic collapse, the girls of today could use some training for tomorrow and in my opinion any book that encourages that is sending the right message to our youth.
Points for discussion:
- What did you think about the characters Louisa, Maddie, Evelyn, and Rosie?
- What did you think about the world they live in?
- What other important lessons could these books teach young girls?
- Should this series have integrated the genders rather than separate them and how would that have changed the book?