Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

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It’s Ty and Colin against the world. Ty has been a Metalhead ever since she can remember, and Colin… hasn’t. Colin and his family moved to Metaltown when his mother’s wife contracted the corn flu. Ty called a safety on Colin, the Bakerstown pansy, meaning anyone messes with Colin, they’re messing with Ty too. Everything is going as well as can be expected, until Ty gets hurt on the job and Lena Hampton leaves her private and protected home to slum it at the Small Parts factory. Now Ty has lost her pride, her job, and could she be losing Colin?

Simmons managed to display the situation in Metaltown with one heartbreaking sentence: “He’d eaten yesterday, but it felt like longer.” The children of Metaltown know what it’s like to be hungry. Right away, we know that these kids are poor. We know there are not too many people looking out for their best interest. We know that they largely have to fend for themselves. The writing in this book, especially the expository writing, was so well done. Without ever stating anything outright, it’s obvious that this book is not a happy one. It’s obvious that this grungy little factory town is filled with misery and pain.

This is Ty’s story at the core. Colin plays a major role, and is the catalyst for a lot of the problems, but it’s not Colin who changes things. It’s Ty. Ty’s injury. Ty getting fired. The comparison between Ty and Lena to show the Hampton’s privilege. It’s Ty who brings everyone together to rescue Colin from food-testing. Ty’s personal and familial history are the reason the Small Parts Charter got what it wanted. Ty may not have personally defeated the Hamptons, and she may not have led the charge, but she was the driving force behind it.

Lena is a troublesome character because she is so entitled, that she can’t even recognize her entitlement. She would like to learn. She wants to know about the war, and why it’s a continual problem. She wants to prove to her father that she’s capable of being a ruthless Hampton to maintain order. She doesn’t know that losing your job due to an injury in Small Parts can kill a person.The more time she spends in Metaltown, the more horrible things she learns about her family’s business practices and human rights violation, but she still clings to the lifestyle those practices support. So she can keep living her expensive lifestyle with her large bedroom and gloves. So she can keep eating food that’s already been tested and so she doesn’t have to work for a living.

Because of all of this, Lena makes quite the statement about privilege and recognizing your own advantages in the real world. Lena could be any of us, especially those of us fortunate enough to read this (let alone have access to the internet to read it). When you’re starving, you don’t have the honor of going to school. You don’t get to learn how to read. You get to learn how to fend for yourself and how to survive. And It’s not that life for people of higher socioeconomic status is without it’s challenges. Lena suffered from some severe emotional and physical abuse, after all, but she has life better than the Metalheads. She always has (safe) food. She has heat and shelter. And she doesn’t have to work for any of it. The people of Metaltown would kill for that.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I see a lot of growth in Lena. Like I said, she could be anyone born into an advantageous situation. It doesn’t make any of this her fault, and her willingness to give up everything to help the Charter make her more real and easier to identify with. After all, we all want to be the hero. And if reading from Lena’s point of view didn’t feel familiar or make you uncomfortable, you probably weren’t digging deep enough.

This is a brilliant story both about strength when facing oppression and fear. They question when is it worth it to risk everything. The children of Metaltown get to decide when it is important to fight for what you deserve and what you need. Because they have to. Because the adults of this story have decided that children don’t deserve any power. Because they have decided an entire generation is expendable. This is when the kids of Metaltown find out who is important to them and who will stand beside them no matter what. This is when the children of Metaltown have to hope.

TL;DR

  • 5/5 Stars
  • Ty changes everything in Metaltown
  • Lena’s character poses some great question about privilege
  • Strong messages about strength and unity against oppression and fear
  • #PressBack
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Replica by Lauren Oliver

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Lyra is a replica. Gemma is a normal girl. Lyra was raised in the Haven Institute. Gemma lived a sheltered, and heavily medicated childhood. Lyra was raised being told she was nothing. Gemma felt like nothing. They were never meant to cross paths, but when they do, Gemma’s world comes tumbling down.

This is 2 stories smashed into one novel. The two stories are printed back to back, and you’re left on your own to decide how you want to read the book. I chose to read all of Lyra’s story and then all of Gemma’s, which is not how I recommend doing it. By separating the stories like that, I had to sit through hearing the same story twice, and by the time Gemma had made some realizations, I’d forgotten what Lyra and 72 had found. Gemma’s story seemed to drag on and on. I strongly suggest jumping between the characters’ corresponding chapters.

Lyra’s story was infinitely more interesting than Gemma’s. Lyra is a replica. She was raised in the Haven Institute. Gemma is a normal girl, living in a small town, and dealing with the same problems as every high school student. Lyra provides a view of what’s going on inside Haven and with the replicas, and Gemma’s story gives us the history behind it.

I wish Lauren Oliver would have told us why the Haven Institute went broke. Maybe she did and I missed it? All I know is they couldn’t afford to manufacture more replicas so they had to steal children. Which also doesn’t make sense? The stolen children aren’t replicas and won’t show the same results as the replicas. Also, if I remember correctly, the Haven Institute paid large sums of money to family members for their children.

The Haven Institute is like nothing I’ve ever read about before. Their treatment of the replicas is reprehensible and their reasons for creating them is even worse. The idea of using them to replace children who died seems ethically questionable enough, but building replicas just to die is horrible. It’s a strong statement on capitalism and the lengths people will go to for success and money. It’s also terrifying that the military is sanctioning this project, and killing people who know too much about it. There are some great points to be made about medical ethics.

TL;DR

  • 4/5 stars
  • Read one chapter from Lyra, then one from Gemma, and so on
  • Interesting to see the story from two perspectives
  • Great questions about ethics and the effect of capitalism