This Review contains spoilers.
“Think,” she whispers. “Think for yourself. Judge for yourself. Make up your own mind.”
Published: 2017, by Scholastic.
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopia.
Contains: Violence/Torture/Abuse, Death, Mentions of Blood/Gore.
‘Show Stopper’ is set in a near-future England, where the rich and poor are separated into Pure’s and Dreg’s, and the latter have their children taken and forced to work for a travelling circus. Under the ruling of a demonic ringmaster, these children are forced into dangerous situations for the entertainment of Pure’s, where casualties are all part of the act.
I desperately wanted to enjoy this book, the beautiful cover having lured me to buy it whilst those who love YA books were recommending it throughout social media. The concept as a whole was something I enjoyed, finding the idea of a dangerous cirque unique whilst the themes relating to racism were explored in a particular way that I haven’t come across before. The tale itself is very dark and feels terrifyingly possible at times, yet I found some of the gore quite tame at times regardless of how many were supposedly ‘revolted’ by it.
Protagonist, Hoshiko, a trapeze artist, was initially someone I was rooting for, her strength and forward thinking something I could applaud and be inspired by. However, after meeting Ben and becoming infatuated the spark sharply left. Her interactions with him were frustrating, as one moment they’d be sleeping beside another holding hands, when the next morning she’d be shouting at him for his heritage. Ben Baines, the love interest and a Pure, was the opposite for me. Although, his personality slowly began to form towards the end of the novel, where his bravery shined through, his character was mostly dull and I found myself skimming his chapters rather than reading. The amount of character skips, as each chapter switches between the pair, were infuriating, and some sections didn’t even last one side of the page before switching back to something way less interesting than the last.
The Narrative itself was an easy read, as most Young Adult texts, however, this one in particular seemed to spell out everything a character was already acting upon. ‘Show Stopper’ is written in first person, which could have been one of the reasons for my disconnection to the tale, yet with a target audience of 14-21 year olds, I wouldn’t have thought that it was necessary to explain everything. This takes the mystery away of working out the characters emotions for themselves, which makes me think of whether this story would have worked better if written in the third person. Some sentences simply felt forced and out of place, such as, rhetorical questions for things that had already been explained in another chapter. There were also sections where ‘show, not tell’ would have came into play, most notably;
“After our kiss, we talk. About everything. About her life. and mine, about our families and our friends. About silly things and serious things.” (Page 311)
Rather than simply stating that they spoke to another about their families, something that I felt could have been explored so much more than it was, especially Hoshiko’s past, there could have been dialogue. However, the interactions between the two were limited, except towards the end where they’d profess their love for another.
Their relationship was another thing that didn’t exactly work with me, as although I’m aware that a lot of Young Adult Fiction relies on love-at-first-sight, I felt that it should have been stretched out for longer, rather than have them share ‘I love you’s after only knowing another for around three days. It’s even less believable than a psychotic ringmaster killing his staff via performance.
Overall, as much as I adored the concept, wishing I’d thought of it myself, the story didn’t live up to it’s potential. Even though I’m sure they’ll be a sequel after the open ending, I don’t think I’ll continue Ben and Hoshiko’s journey.
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