“Self/Less” by AVIVA is an interesting novel well suited to the young adult audience it’s aimed at. Although not particularly original, it’s entertaining and well told.
Teddy is 17, and a privileged citizen of Metropolis. A walled city that protects its’ inhabitants from the deadlands outside, Metropolis is ruled by a repressive regime that rigidly controls all aspects of citizen’s lives. Teddy’s father works closely with the Mayor, and her mother is editor of the only news magazine in town.
Despite her privileges, Teddy is unsettled. Perhaps it’s just that she’s about to be assigned her lifetime job and her life partner. But then again, she’s never quite toed the line, wearing clothes that aren’t approved, defying the rules to make art, and trying to find a small piece of privacy.
Then Teddy makes a number of upsetting discoveries in quick succession. People “infected” with bad ideas who are taken away to be “sanitised” are never seen again. There’s a whole city living under Metropolis, made up of assorted outcasts or escapees. There are sympathisers who support them. And her parents are not the people she thought they were.
When you read this novel you may hear echoes of many others, from “1984” to “The Hunger Games”. AVIVA is interested in telling Teddy’s story in particular, and it will absorb many readers, but there’s not a lot of originality here. But a well-told story can be successful in re-using ideas, themes, and tropes seen before.
This is a young adult novel, and is a stronger novel for people who are newer to the themes. Teddy is a strong character who many readers will empathise with, and her adventures are interesting.
They’re also very relevant to the age group; articulating your values, separating yourself from your parents, first romance, taking responsibility. Many young people are grappling with similar issues.
Although it’s not labelled as such, “Self/Less” is actually the first in a series. This ends on a cliffhanger; not much is resolved. Although I don’t mind this, I prefer to know it from the cover or title page. Discovering it on the last page makes the story feel a little unbalanced.
I enjoyed this novel, despite it feeling like a story I’d read many times before. The world-building could be stronger, but characters are strongly defined and the pace is well judged.
This is a readable adventure well-aimed at young adults. More experienced readers won’t find it overly memorable but will enjoy the reading experience. It’s a strong debut that will have many waiting for the sequel.
Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan (2021)
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Self/less by AVIVA. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I love sharing that joy.
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, across all genres. There’s not much I won’t at least try. I’ve been an enthusiastic book reviewer for years. I particularly enjoy discovering writers new to me, and sharing good writing with others.
My career has included time spent writing and editing technical documents, but it’s fiction that really moves me. I’ve reviewed for a number of different outlets over the years, and have been a judge in literary competitions.
I’m now raising little bookworms of my own, which brings a whole new kind of joy to sharing books.
More of my reviews can be found on my review blog www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog .