A Review: The Farm by Emily McKay

Old Duck Farm in Flanders 4

Since dystopian fiction has entered the YA picture I must admit that I have not read many ‘worlds-which-could-have-been-our-world’ novels; I’m more of a contemporary lit kind of girl. But, when I read about the plot of The Farm by Emily McKay and how it was meant to the next Hunger Games, which movie I extremely enjoyed, I decided it was time for me to jump on the dystopian bandwagon and see what it had to offer. After reading the book and giving myself a night and a day to muse over it I have come to the conclusion that I’m still confused over my feelings towards it.

As a whole I did enjoy Emily McKay’s debut at Young Adult Fiction, she tends to write those annoying woman romance novels, in particular the first half where we were introduced to Lily and her autistic twin sister Mel, and their scheme to leave the Farm. Right, so what is the Farm? It’s not exactly George Orwell’s animal kingdom; instead it is this old college in Texas turned institution where good teenage humans, e.g. greens ,are unable to let slip or do anything out of the ordinary as this will be registered by the bully teenage humans, e.g. blues, who will then tell the headmaster, the Dean, of their doing and they will be fed to the Ticks. These Tick creatures have resulted due to an experiment gone wrong and they have taken over the USA. Lily believes that if she can make it to Canada then all her worries will fade away…

I enjoyed the first half of the apocalyptic tale because I like introductions. I like being presented by a setting where the remainder of the book is going to be set. I like meeting the characters who are going to lead us through their wee story. What I hate is when this simple structure is broken, a la, Mel and Lily escaping from The Farm and bringing us into the second half of the novel where everything is disciplined to always become bigger and better. What I also hate is when your average character ends up not being any old average individual, but instead special, in the way that only they have the power to save humanity.

Ok, rant over. Back to where I was, the starting of the book was a bit different by analysing how teenagers can turn bad if their lives depend on it and the lengths at which they will go to remain alive. That’s another thing, when you turn 18 you get thrown to these Ticks because it has something to do with puberty hormones, who will rip out your heart the minute they smell you from a 30 mile distance. Of course this whole turning 18 served no point after Lily left the farm. It was actually when she left on her travels that I stopped reading the book for a while as another animal entered the picture, a vampire.  As much as I like their fangs and that; it really wasn’t necessary for one of the characters to go, “Hey look, I’m a vampire.” After two weeks, in which I had been spending my winter crouched over my Christmas chocolates, I began to read from where I left off and once again I fell back in love with the book.

I understood the character of Lily up to a certain extent. I liked how when Carter, her old crush, flamed back into her life and how she was finding it difficult to deal with having this love emotion reappearing from within her after this long six month period of hate. I suppose it’s kind of similar to a boyfriend breaking up with you and you swear vengeance on any human of the male species. I do like my romance in a novel and Carter did put up a good fight against Lily. The only downfall of Lily was her sister; as the chapters would switch between the point of view of Lily, Mel and Carter, I would just skim over Mel’s usual half a page of because I couldn’t understand what her rhythmic way of thought was all about. It was as though McKay wanted to express how important sound was in our everyday lives, but I wish she had either explained this use of sound a bit more clearly to the audience or she had gone down a different route entirely. Lily’s feelings towards Mel were what annoyed me the most; one moment she hated her, the next she couldn’t stand losing her. I guess that is infinite circle of sisterly love. It felt a bit too much at times though as Lily would moan about how she was taking care of Mel, but I’m sure she would have been able to stand on her own two feet if Lily had given her the chance.

I was wondering about a third of the way through the novel what the grand finale ending would entail. I had already guessed correctly what the twist was going to be earlier on and I was intrigued with what other surprise would await me. The end of the novel was anticlimactic. There was only one moment when I went OMG, but I only rolled my eyes when they thought of how they could solve the problem. I’m still not too sure what the motive behind the story lies as their seems to be only one objective which needs to be done, so the last 100 pages was like a big detour, literally, to offer some way of splitting the story into two novels. It was pretty disappointing, but I must admit myself that I wasn’t sure how The Farm could have finished in the first novel to keep you hooked, but how it finished was pretty carless and unimaginative. It wasn’t like how novels in a saga usually work where one door shuts and another opens, instead that door is still open and their continuously driving towards it in the yellow magical mystery bus.

This has not been the most uplifting rewarding review for my first real read of a dystopian novel. I did enjoy reading this book and growing into the characters heads; the plot just fell flat. There is a lack of imagination to this book and although I will read the next instalment because I can’t now not know what happens. All I hope is that more detail and time is given to the plot for the second in the series so that they events feel necessary and there are no loose ties.


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